BOSTON — Jayson Tatum in the last game before his 25th birthdayth Birthday, needed 40 points to get into the NBA’s top 7 all-time U25 scorers list.
He made it Wednesday night – with just 17 seconds remaining – to lead his Boston Celtics to a 117-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
Tatum, whose milestone birthday is Friday, started the game 39 points behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 7th-Placemark of 9,427. He equalized Antetokounmpo with a free throw at the 3:17 mark of the fourth quarter and then pushed past the Greek freak exactly three minutes later as he smashed two critical free throws to seal the win.
Only six players will remain above Tatum’s pre-25 mark of 9,429 points: LeBron James (13,927 points), Kevin Durant (12,258 points), Carmelo Anthony (10,768 points), Kobe Bryant (10,658 points), Tracy McGrady (10,420 points) , and Devin Booker (9,481 points).
That’s not bad company, especially considering Tatum wasn’t his team’s top scorer in his first two seasons, dealt with COVID-cut campaigns in his third and fourth years, and didn’t skip college before turning pro, eh it James, Bryant and McGrady did.
Also, of this top 7, Tatum is the only one to have had fewer than 1,000 turnovers before the age of 25.
It’s hard to believe that the forever 19 boy is about to hit the quarter-century mark, and it’s even more amazing to see what he’s accomplished in his six years in the NBA.
He historically ranks at the top of the league in so many U25 statistical categories such as wins (sixth), plus/minus (runner-up), playoff points (third), playoff rebounds (fifth), and wins in the regular season and in combined in the playoffs (sixth). He is also on several franchise under 25 lists.
However, Tatum claims he has yet to bask in those personal accomplishments because he is only focused on staying in the moment and winning the next game.
“I never really take the time to think about where I am or what I’ve achieved,” he said after his last game at the age of 24. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment, stay present these six years in the league have flown by. But I’d like to think that I’m fine and hopefully keep getting better and stay healthy and improve and win a few more games.”
On Tuesday night, Tatum wasn’t focused on overtaking Antetokounmpo on the U25 goalscoring list or becoming just the third player in Celtics history to make 20 career games with 40 points, alongside Larry Bird (47) and Paul Pierce (21). His goal was simply to get his rhythm back after scoring an uncharacteristic 36.7 percent in his first three games after the All-Star break and help the Cs recover from Monday night’s loss in New York .
By staying in the moment, Tatum put those last three games in the rearview mirror and continued with ease, shooting 13 of 21 from the field, 4 of 6 from 3-point range and 11 of 14 from the free throw line.
In addition to his 41 points, JT also had 11 rebounds and eight assists, becoming only the third player in franchise history, alongside Larry Bird and John Havlicek, to have such tally in a game.
“It’s a long season,” he said of the ups and downs of the 82-game grind. “Nobody has a great day at work every day of the year; Everyone has bad days. But you have to take the good days with the bad days. I say it all the time: ‘Never get too high, never get too low.’ And no matter what happens, you can’t change it. You have to prepare for the next one and move on.”
That mentality allowed Tatum to climb to the top of so many leaderboards at his age. Now he’s ready for 25 years and, more importantly, his team’s next matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.