Colin Cowherd Throws NBA Finals Shade At Celtics’ Jayson Tatum: ‘He Shrinks’

Cowherd isn't sold on Tatum being a 'superstar'


Jun 13, 2022

Colin Cowherd on Monday became the latest pundit to weigh in on whether Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is worthy of the “superstar” label.

It’s a debate that’s been raging all season, and Tatum’s hiccups against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals have cast some doubt over whether he’s ready to assume the title.

“Jayson Tatum does prove there’s a big gap between stars and superstars,” Cowherd argued Monday on FS1. “Stars in the NBA are All-Stars, usually the best, most talented player on the team. They’re going to average over 20 points a game. The NBA’s got 20 of those guys at any one time. The NBA’s always had stars.

“Superstar is different. Superstar is iconic. Non-sports fans know who they are. They’re culture setters. Jayson Tatum is not a culture setter for the Celtics. Marcus Smart, you could argue, is the culture setter. Superstars have their own brand, and what you figure out about superstars (is that) no matter how good the other team’s defense is, they get theirs. There is only one superstar in this series, and that’s Steph Curry.”

Tatum at times this postseason has looked like one of the NBA’s elite, a two-way force capable of dominating offensively while more than holding his own defensively. There have been other games, though, where Tatum has sputtered, sometimes showing a lack of aggressiveness while turning the basketball over at an alarming rate.

Tatum’s performance, in some ways, is a microcosm of the Celtics’ potential as a team: Very high highs. Some low lows. Overall, excellent. But the NBA’s best? Debatable.

It’s not a total knock on Tatum, by any means. It’s just notable as he looks to take the next step in his NBA career, especially when juxtaposed with Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, a transcendent talent whose “superstar” status hardly is in question.

“I said before the series: I think Boston could outplay the Warriors five games in this series and yet lose the series in six,” Cowherd said. “And I think Boston will outplay the Warriors (in Game 5). That’s no guarantee they’ll win. There’s more urgency for Boston. They will play a great basketball game (Monday night). I am convinced of that. But they will shrink, potentially, because that’s what they do and that’s kind of what their leader’s done. If you watch the Warriors, they play loose and confident, even though many of their best players are past their prime. That’s the influence of Steph. Even though all the Celtics’ best players are in their prime, they get tight and have doubt. That’s because Jayson Tatum has verbalized that on more than one occasion.

“When you watch Jayson Tatum, and I love him, I think he’s a great player, but Boston was a bad clutch team. Look it up. They were one of the bottom-three clutch teams — they have stats for that — in the NBA. And that speaks to Jayson Tatum. He shrinks. He verbalizes it. He has doubt. And when you send it out there, opposing players see it and they’re going to work hard to pull that doubt out of you.

“Steph never gives you any inkling that he lacks confidence. So, in the biggest spots, where do you go to stop him? Tatum’s starting to feel like Andrew Wiggins — really, really talented (but) you can’t depend on him. You’re not going to depend on him in the Finals. I think Jayson Tatum is going to be a star for the next 10 years. I highly doubt he’s a superstar.”

Tatum, of course, can change the conversation (again) by leading the Celtics to an NBA title. The next step in that effort comes Monday night when Boston and Golden State square off in Game 5 at Chase Center with the best-of-seven series tied 2-2.

Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images
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