Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stamped their place in Celtics history after defeating the Mavericks in the NBA Finals to capture a record-breaking 18th Banner for Boston, but that uphill climb was anything but smooth.

Falling five times together in the Eastern Conference finals, plus once in the 2022 Finals, prompted a premature overreaction from outside doubters. The faith in Tatum and Brown’s ability to co-exist, and more importantly, propel the Celtics, began to sink and even prompt trade rumors involving then-Nets star Kevin Durant before the 2022-23 season kicked off.

Obviously, the potential blockbuster swap never came to fruition, however, the thought of severing ties with Brown still stuck with Tatum.

“It would bother me,” Tatum said after Boston’s Game 5 win, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “Not talking from a pedestal, but I didn’t necessarily know what that felt like. But I could just imagine all the hard work that he put in. I saw it every day. Even the strongest-minded person, that would affect you at some point. So I always felt for him in that regard.”

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Brown, homegrown by the Celtics after being selected third overall in 2016, worked from being booed on draft night, entering the league with a subpar jumper, and escaping from Tatum’s shadow. Getting the short end of the credibility stick routinely, while also managing the frustration of failing to meet the franchise’s title expectations, allowed Brown to grow on the floor.

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The 27-year-old averaged 23 points shooting a career-best 49.9% from the field, earning a third-career All-Star appearance. Brown was the only All-Star to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest — the first since 2017 — and standing out above all else, the Cal product stood strong next to Tatum at the forefront of promoting the team’s record first and foremost. There were no talks, concerns, or emphasis applied on anything other than sitting atop the Eastern Conference, which the Celtics did from Nov. 14 until the postseason.

Everything came together once Boston and Dallas battled for the Larry O’Brien Trophy and Brown was named Finals MVP after averaging 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists. Brown scored 21 points, collected eight rebounds and dished out four assists in the biggest game of his career, proving the front office right in sticking by its All-Star tandem.

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“(The Finals MVP) could have gone to anybody,” Brown said postgame. “It could have gone to Jayson. Jayson, like I can’t talk enough about his selflessness. You know, I can’t talk enough about his attitude. It’s just how he approached not just this series or the Finals but just the playoffs in general. And we did it together as a team, and that was the most important thing.”

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images