Celtics star Jayson Tatum reflects on how being a father changed his life and career on Father’s Day

BOSTON – Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum spent part of his Father’s Day thinking about how his son made him a better person – and probably a better basketball player, too.

During a practice the day before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Tatum acknowledged that he was “a little selfish” when, as a teenager still in college and hoping for basketball stardom, he learned he would be a father.

“I would be the first to say that I wasn’t super excited when I found out I was going to be a father, and quickly realized that it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. There is nothing better than being a father,” Tatum said on Sunday. “I am convinced that everything happens for a reason.”

Now 26 and in his seventh season, Tatum is a five-time All-Star who has led Boston to the Eastern Conference finals five times and to the NBA Finals twice. The Celtics lead the Dallas Mavericks 3-1 in the best-of-seven series; after missing their first chance at a title on Friday, they have a second chance at an unprecedented 18th championship banner on Monday night.

Tatum had just turned 19 and was in his only year at Duke when he learned his then-girlfriend was pregnant.

“I wasn’t ecstatic,” Tatum said Sunday. “I was a little selfish at the time because I knew I was about to pursue my dream and play in the NBA. I felt like this would affect what people thought of me, where I went in the draft.”

Tatum was selected No. 3 overall by the Celtics, and Jayson Tatum Jr. – known to the Celtics as “Deuce” – was born in December of his father’s rookie season. Having a son helped the NBA star deal with the expectations of his newfound wealth and fame, as well as the temptations that came with it.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the first half of Game 4 of the NBA Basketball Finals, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Dallas. Credit: AP/Sam Hodde

“It taught me a sense of responsibility,” Tatum says. “Nobody can help you or prepare you for what it’s like to be 19 and have millions of dollars.

“And I think – not that I think, I know – that having Deuce at that age grounded me. Because whatever decision I wanted to make, I had to make sure he was taken care of. I couldn’t just get up and do everything some of my peers did because I had to go home and put him to bed. Either I went out of town for Father’s Day weekend, or I had to skip this trip with my friends because it was my weekend with him.

‘Not that it’s a sacrifice. I would like to choose those things. But it has taught me a sense of responsibility – and also just making the right decisions, knowing that there is a six-year-old “mini-me” that is essentially watching everything I do and knows that I have to be the best version of myself. . I have to make the right decisions, because he is always watching.”