Tatum on Kobe, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry and his favorite play from last year


It's no secret that Kobe Bryant was Jason Tatum's idol as a kid and the budding Celtics star has gotten a chance to work out with Bryant this summer.

Tatum told Bill Simmons on Simmons' Ringer podcast that Bryant "was the reason I wanted to play basketball [as] a kid", so the workout sessions and being featured in Bryant's "Details" ESPN+ series was a dream come true for the 20-year-old, second-year C's forward. 

"Like when I was like 4 or 5, I’d just always tell—my mom would ask me what I wanted to be when I got older. And I would just be like, 'I wanna be Kobe,' Tatum told Simmons. "She’d be like, “You wanna be in the NBA?” “No, like, I wanna be Kobe.” He was just my favorite player. I had his posters, all his jerseys. That was my guy."

That Kobe love as a kid put Tatum on the wrong side of the NBA's greatest rivalry, at least as far as Celtics fans are concerned.

"I used to hate Boston," Tatum said.

"Yeah, well, we need to fix that," Simmons told him.

Tatum replied, "No, I love Boston now."

Tatum also loves the play-calling ability of his coach, Brad Stevens. He said he knew right away in his rookie season that Stevens was what Simmons described as "a coaching freak." 

And his favorite play from last season? It's one where Tatum didn't even score. It's the Al Horford game-winner - a patented Stevens inbound play-call out of a timeout - vs. the 76ers in Game 3 of the playoffs, a 101-98 Celtics victory. 

"[Stevens said,] 'All you gotta do, Al, is seal them. You’ll be wide open,'" Tatum said. "And when it worked just how he said it was going to work, I was like, 'Wow. That was crazy.' Like, everything worked exactly how he said it was going to work, and it won us a game."

Of the pre-draft trade with the Sixers that gave Philly the No. 1 pick, used on Markelle Fultz, and the Celtics the No. 3 pick, which Boston used on Tatum, Tatum said he joked with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge that the deal cost him money. He'll earn more than $7 million less on his four-year rookie contract than if he'd gone No. 1. 

“I joke with Danny all the time, he should’ve just took me No. 1,” Tatum told Simmons.  “I could’ve kept a few dollars of my paycheck. Tell [Ainge], ‘You owe me some money.'”


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