Jayson Tatum explains why he isn’t worrying about Finals MVP talk


“Finals MVP or whatever, a champion is a champion. That’s the goal.”

Jayson Tatum explains why he isn’t worrying about Finals MVP talk
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are one win away from an NBA title. Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff

Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are just one win away from that sought-after 18th banner.

But if the Celtics close the deal and defeat the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the American Airlines Center, Tatum may not be the one leaving the court with the NBA Finals MVP in his possession.

Even though Tatum has long established himself as a top-10 player in the NBA, his teammate, Jaylen Brown, is the odds-on favorite as of Thursday night when it comes to Finals MVP discourse. 

Brown, who recorded 30 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in Boston’s Game 3 win on Wednesday night, is currently leading the Celtics in scoring this series at 24.3 points per game while shooting 55.1 percent from the field.

Add in his stellar defense, and the Eastern Conference Finals MVP is currently the leader in the clubhouse for the coveted trophy, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. 

But in a conversation with Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes on Thursday, Tatum said he isn’t getting caught up on discourse with the Finals MVP and other individual accolades — not with a championship within Boston’s grasp.

“Man, I want everybody to be at their best. I want everybody to contribute. Winning will take care of everything,” Tatum told Haynes. 

“Finals MVP or whatever, a champion is a champion. That’s the goal. I want for my teammates what I want for myself. I want everybody to shine. There’s enough attention for all of us. And so, I want everybody to give us theirs.”

Even though Brown has arguably been the most impactful player on the court for Boston in these last three games, Tatum’s scoring dip (21.6 points) and shooting slump (35.6 percent) have not precluded the star forward from impacting the game and making life miserable for the Mavericks. 

Tatum is still averaging 8.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game in this series, with his ability to drive into the paint opening up quality looks for the rest of his teammates. Tatum finished with a team-high 31 points in Game 3, keeping his team afloat in the first quarter with 13 points during Dallas’ strong opening surge. 

Tatum may not end the 2023-24 season with a Finals MVP trophy in his possession. But that won’t matter much if he finally gets over the hump and celebrates a championship with his teammates. 

“I’ve been here before, and I know what it felt like to lose [in the Finals] and that was the worst feeling ever,” Tatum told Haynes. “That was the worst summer I ever had. I made the All-Star team five times.

“I’m All-NBA first team year after year. The only thing they said I haven’t done is win. I just vowed to myself that if I ever got back to the Finals, then I would literally do whatever I needed to do to ensure that we have a different outcome.”

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