Within a 36 day span, New England sports fans lost two of the respective faces of their various sports franchises. The Red Sox dealt Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the recent departure of Patriot legend Tom Brady has left a gaping hole as to who will become the new face synonymous with Boston Sports.
After six years with a revolving door of potential suitors, the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum is already being crowned by fans as the next face of New England Sports. To understand how the Celtics and Tatum got to this crossroads, we must retrace our steps and see how we got here.
The last man to represent the Celtics and part of the Big 4 of Boston’s sports teams was Paul Pierce. Pierce’s story is well documented; the Southern California kid who grew up before the eyes of Celtics fans and eventually became a champion. In doing so, he became New Englands’ adopted son.
After the remnants of the “Big Three” era slowly were dealt, the franchise began two years without any clear-cut star, similar to what Red Sox and Patriot fans are now experiencing.
After 2 years in NBA purgatory, the Celtics struck gold: the 60th man found a home and became the most likable man in Boston. Isaiah Thomas stole the show with his electrifying scoring ability and positive mentality.
Thomas’ arrival was a revelation, bringing the Celtics back to the post-season during his tenure. During Thomas’ time as a starter, he led the Celtics in scoring both times, even carrying them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
His final season was capped with two major achievements; becoming the Celtics single-season highest scorer (28.9 PPG) and scoring 53 points in an emotional Game 2 win over the Wizards. This period of Celtics’ basketball is no understatement, it’s a major link in the chain of events that aided the development of the current Celtics team.
His presence set the tone that would be echoed by current point guard Kemba Walker. Unfortunately, The legend of Isaiah Thomas ended as quickly as it began. This ushered in another short-lived era in Celtics basketball: the Kyrie Irving Era.
June 22nd: With the number one pick in the draft, Boston was playing with house money. A flurry of draft picks fleeced in the infamous Celtics/Nets trade, paired with young budding assets and money to spend.
The Celtics swapped picks with the 76ers, who were eager to land the presumptive overall pick, Markelle Fultz. Danny Ainge stated the player he’d draft first overall was the same player he picked at third. He selected Jayson Tatum out of Duke.
August 22nd: Later that summer, the Celtics and Cavaliers swapped guards, with Kyrie Irving heading to Beantown and Isaiah Thomas set to join LeBron James in a Cavs uniform. With many hailing this trade as a lopsided win for Boston, things would change over Kyrie’s two-year tenure.
The First Season – The introduction:
Tatum showed promise during his first year in the league. While the Celtics dealt with injuries to the core of Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, Tatum elevated his post-season play beyond expectations.
He upped his regular-season average of 13.5 PPG, to a team-leading 18.5 PPG in the playoffs. His play led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals against a LeBron James led Cavalier squad.
With the aid of Terry Rozier III and budding all-star Jaylen Brown, Tatum pushed LeBron to seven games, and within ten minutes of an NBA finals berth. Mind you, this was 19-Year old Jayson Tatum, in his rookie season. Although the Celtics lost in LeBron’s last stand in the East, Tatum left his mark on the King and Celtics fans with this one-handed jam. This would only be the beginning.
The Second Season – The Sophmore Slump:
Following an electrifying season and postseason run, Celtics’ fans had high expectations. With the return of a healthy Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, this squad’s expectations were through the roof.
Although the promise was evident, internal issues began to boil over onto the court. Tatum regressed, along with Jaylen Brown. Partly to do with “too many shooters” and partially having the wrong leader.
Irving missed a total of 56 games with the Celtics but the stats prove this was beneficial for the rest of the team. With a healthy Irving in the line-up, Boston posted a 104-60 (.6103) record. Without the star guard, Boston held a 37-19 (.6607) record.
The team was plagued by locker room drama and ultimately led to the end of Kyrie Irving’s tenure. His presence stunted the growth of both Brown and Tatum. Now departed, both would get more touches and better ball distribution.
Tatum in particular was poised for a major leap.
The Present – The Jump:
With the departure of Kyrie Irving and the arrival of Kemba Walker, Celtics fans began to see potential again. Al Horford’s departure hurt, but with the two most ball-dominant and scoring players leaving meant more touches for the young core, specifically Tatum. This is a stat comparison of the teams led by Kyrie Irving, versus Kemba Walker;
Brown: 13 PPG with 10.7 Field Goal Attempts
Tatum: 15.7 PPG with 13.1 Field Goal Attempts
Current Season Stats (2019-2020):
Brown: 20.4 PPG with 15.4 Field Goal Attempts
Tatum: 23.6 PPG with 18.9 Field Goal Attempts – Leads team in both
In 59 games, Tatum dominated with 23.9 PPG and 5.9 Rebounds. But that isn’t the remarkable feat, it’s what he did in February. Post All-Star Break, Tatum averaged 30.7 PPG and 7.9 rebounds for the month. He’d drop 30+ points in 4 straight games, and win Eastern Conference Player of the Month.
With more weight on his shoulders, Tatum has begun to elevate his play and in-turn gain the faith from Celtics’ fans. With the season abruptly ending, we’ll have to wait to witness the continuing evolution of Tatum’s game but the promise is there.
Just as we once watched Paul Pierce grow up before our very eyes, we are watching the birth of the next Celtic Super Star. Pierce himself stated on The Jump, “He’s going to be better than me.” With the high praise, a franchise and fanbase searching for its next face, Jayson Tatum is the future of Boston.
His rapid evolution and ingratiation in New England only stand to further his importance to Boston and it’s fans. Not only will he be the face of the Boston Celtics but he will be the face of New England sports for many years to come.