Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum put together a Kobe Bryant-like performance in crunch time during Sunday’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, and did so while honoring the late legend with a purple No. 24 wrist band on left arm.
Tatum, who finished with a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds to go with and a few crucial buckets down the stretch, revealed that he texted Bryant prior to the series finale against the Miami Heat.
Tatum was asked why he chose to honor Bryant with the wrist band and signature shoes, both of which the Celtics star has worn in the past, during the season-defying contest.
“Obviously, that was my idol, that was my inspiration, that was my favorite player,” Tatum said after the win, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “The shoes I wore, I’ve been wearing the last couple of games, were dedicated to him. And today, before I took my nap, I do it sometimes, I was watching some film, some moments from him and his career. This is the biggest game of my career thus far. And I wanted to wear that armband to honor him and kind of share that moment in a way.”
Tatum made a few Bryant-like shots in the fourth. The First Team All-NBA selection hit a contested step-back 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 93-81 lead with 5:54 left in the contest. And just two possessions later, Tatum created separation from Jimmy Butler and hit a tough jumper as the shot clock ticked to zero. It gave Boston a 95-85 lead.
The performance, along with that of the entire series, helped Tatum claim the “Larry Bird Trophy” presented to the MVP of the Eastern Conference finals. He now advances to his first NBA Finals where he will look to do what Bryant did five times — claim a championship ring.
The NBA Finals will kick off Thursday as Boston travels to Golden State for Game 1 of the best-of-seven and tip off set for 9 p.m. ET.