Celtics star Jayson Tatum says winning NBA title ends elite debate

Heavily scrutinized over the past three seasons, Jayson Tatum led the Boston Celtics to the franchise’s first NBA title in 16 years. And according to Tatum, winning a ring “a hundred percent” cements him as an elite player.

“Just being at the topic of discussion of so many debates or whatever it is … ‘Can he lead a team? Is he a top-five player?’ There’s still a lot of things I guess they can debate. But now I’ve done something that they can’t debate: I’ve won a championship,” Tatum told ESPN at USA Basketball’s practice on Monday. 

“Having that under my belt, like, obviously, it’s still conversations to be had or whatever people want to say, but they always got to refer to me as an NBA champion.”

Tatum is one of two Celtics on the U.S. roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics, with veteran guard Jrue Holiday being the other. This is the second time both Tatum and Holiday are playing for USA Basketball in the Olympics.

In the regular season, Tatum averaged 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and one steal per game, while shooting 47.1/37.6/83.3, which came one year after averaging 30.1 points per game.

Boston beat the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers in five games apiece in Rounds 1 and 2, followed by sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals and defeating the Dallas Mavericks in five games in the NBA Finals. In the decisive fifth game, Tatum scored 31 points with 11 assists, eight rebounds and two steals in Boston’s 106-88 victory.

Jayson Tatum & Celtics agree to the largest contract in NBA history

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During the NBA Finals, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd referred to Tatum’s teammate, three-time All-Star Jaylen Brown, as Boston’s “best player.” Tatum averaged 25.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 42.7/28.3/86.1 across Boston’s 19 postseason games. Meanwhile, Brown, who was named the Finals MVP, averaged 23.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game in the postseason, while shooting 51.6/32.7/66.0 and receiving resounding praise for his on-ball defense. 

Shortly after helping the franchise win its NBA-high 18th title, Tatum and the Celtics agreed to a five-year, $315 million extension. They also signed guard Derrick White to a four-year, $126 million extension.

Tatum, 26, is a four-time All-NBA honoree and five-time All-Star who has spent his entire seven-year career with the Celtics.

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