top of page

Jayson Tatum - More Wiggins or Kobe? A Tale of Two Tatums

-Photo credit to CelticsBlog

Prior to Game 6 of the 76ers/Celtics series, Colin Cowherd made a wild comparison involving Jayson Tatum. Cowherd stated that "He's [Tatum] is much more Wiggins than Kobe or Michael Jordan," criticizing Tatum's lack of "killer-instinct" in games. Depending on how you look at last night's crucial Game 6, Tatum could be viewed as the mediocre playoff performer who fails to raise his game play in the playoffs, or he could be viewed as "the guy" for the Celtics who consistently shows up when it matters the most. Game 6 supports both interpretations. You know that scene in Spider-Man: No Way Home when Willem Dafoe tells Tom Holland that he's "Strong enough to have it all. Too weak to take it!"? That's kind of how Tatum felt last night.

If you just looked at his stat line alone compared to the relatively low scoring final score, it would seem like Jayson Tatum had a relatively good all-around game. However, this was a tale of two Tatums: Tatum through the 3rd quarter and 4th quarter Tatum. Tatum started the game as cold as can be. Through three quarters, Tatum shot 1/13, scoring only 3 points. He was having possibly the worst playoff performance of his life in an elimination game. What a stain on his legacy that would have been. However, the C's above average defense, mediocre scoring from Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and co., and the 76ers own problems kept the game at 73-71 76ers. The magic happened in the 4th quarter when Tatum finally decided to play basketball (maybe the Mon-Stars were finally done using his skill). Tatum scored 16 4th quarter points, hitting two crucial 3's in a row to lengthen the lead. He ended the game with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Celtics won 95 to 86, forcing a Game 7 that'll be in Boston.

If you agree with Cowherd's take on Tatum depends on how you view JT's (No, not Justin Timberlake) performance last night. On one hand, Tatum's offense through 3 quarters was nonexistent and wasteful. It's not just the fact that his fg% was below 10%, it's also the fact that he took so many shots, throwing away so many valuable offensive possessions. In a game where both teams score under 100 points, every offensive possession counts. The bottom line is that Jayson Tatum held his team back in the first three quarters, jeopardizing his team's playoff success. Sounds more like a Wiggins to me.

However, in the same game, Jayson Tatum was the ultimate catalyst for his team's success in the 4th. He nailed two crucial, well-contested three-pointers to take a definitive lead over the 76ers. He finished with 16 4th quarter points. JT showed up when it mattered most and lead the Celtics to victory. If that isn't a killer instinct, I don't know what is. The ability to overcome the self-doubt that probably arose in Tatum following his abysmal offensive display and confidently chuck up contested 3's with their season on the line is assuredly Mamba-esque. Dion Waters once stated that he would "rather go 0 for 30 than 0 for 9 because you go 0 for 9 that means you stopped shooting". Tatum definitely didn't stop shooting, ending the night 5 for 21. He has that superstar gene where no matter the circumstances, he believes in himself above all else. In this sense, Tatum is much more of a Jordan.

I think Cowherd's accusation was largely unfounded. Jayson Tatum has proven himself to be a consistent 1st-team all NBA caliber player over the last few years. I don't think he's a Wiggins or a Kobe/Jordan. I feel like he's in more of a Paul Pierce lane to be honest: great star who was a.........great star. Not a consistently disappointing Wiggins or a generationally dominant Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, but a solid, future hall of famer.

That being said, what happened last night cannot happen again. If Tatum wants Cowherd to stop making ridiculous comparisons between him and a player who can't even make All Star, then he's gotta get his act together. Jayson Tatum cannot start a game off that poorly again because next time, the stars won't align to bail the Celtics out. Following the game, Jayson Tatum said "humbly, I'm one of the best basketball players in the world". Besides the statement being just a little cocky, I don't know if that's how I'd view myself after shooting less than 25% for the night. Tatum's got a lot to show in this next game if he wants to prove himself right.

As the Celtics go back to Boston for Game 7, I'm looking for a Jayson Tatum redemption arc. I'm feeling 35, 8, and 8 for JT coupled with a few nasty blocks. As for the outcome of the series, I don't really know what will happen. Philly looks good, but is a little too inconsistent for me to confidently back them. I truly have no idea who will win this series, but if we're saying Jayson Tatum is like Spider-Man in No Way Home, then I think we all know how this series will end: with him rising to the occasion, making the world magically forget his sinister stat line and secret identity as Andrew Wiggins.


bottom of page