MIAMI — Boston Celtics swingman Jayson Tatum was named the inaugural Larry Bird award winner because the MVP of the NBA Eastern Conference finals on the conclusion of the collection Sunday.
Tatum, 24, wore an armband honoring Kobe Bryant because the Celtics beat the Miami Heat 100-96 in Game 7, and he delivered some of the essential performances of his profession — scoring 26 factors, grabbing 10 rebounds and including 6 assists in 46 minutes. Tatum got here into Game 7 averaging 24.8 factors, 8 rebounds and 5.5 assists and repeatedly made large performs when the Celtics wanted them.
“It’s an honor,” Tatum stated of profitable the primary Bird award. “It still doesn’t even seem real right now. I’m just extremely happy and grateful for all of this. Regardless of how long I’ve been in the league, I’m not too far removed from when I was in high school and when I was dreaming about moments like this.
“I nonetheless really feel like a child at some occasions that I’m really dwelling out my dream. I thank God day-after-day simply to be on this place to have the ability to try this. To be the primary particular person to win this award, clearly after Larry Bird, it nonetheless hasn’t like sunk in but. I’m going to take it house and present [my son] Deuce [Monday] and luxuriate in it.”
Tatum’s consistency throughout the series set him apart. Night after night, he delivered in key moments, especially late in Game 7 as he hit several big jumpers and made strong defensive plays against Heat star Jimmy Butler. Tatum and Butler shared a handshake and a hug at center court after the series finale, displaying the mutual admiration that was apparent all series.
“A man that is carried us all through the season,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Asked quite a bit to be placed on his shoulders and has delivered. You take a look at the numbers, 26-point evening and that is commonplace for him. That’s a median evening for him. He’s averaged 27 this 12 months, First Team All-NBA. So he is aware of quite a bit is relied upon him. …
“Jayson, he’s the head of the snake. Well-deserved all the accolades he’s getting, and he’s only 24 and not even touched his ceiling, not even close to that.”
With the Bird trophy beneath his belt, Tatum has lastly delivered the Celtics again to the NBA Finals, the place he now has an opportunity to cement his Boston legacy. Game 1 in opposition to the Golden State Warriors is Thursday in San Francisco. The proven fact that he did it whereas carrying an armband in honor of Bryant made it that rather more particular for the younger star.
“Obviously that was my idol,” Tatum stated. “That was my inspiration. That was my favorite player. The shoes I wore, been wearing the last couple games were dedicated to him.
“Today earlier than I took my nap — I do it typically, I used to be watching some movie and a few moments from him and his profession. This is the largest sport of my profession up to now, and I needed to put on that armband to honor him and sort of share that second in a means.”
While Tatum earned the Bird award, it was Butler’s performance that might last even longer in the annals of the game. The 32-year-old scored 35 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in Game 7 — and came into the defining contest averaging 24 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the series.
Butler’s series was made even more impressive by the fact that he dealt with right knee soreness off and on throughout the last week, and missed the second half of Game 3 because of ongoing issues with the knee. Throughout the series, Butler imposed his will on the game and carried the Heat to victories. In Miami’s Game 1 win, Butler racked up 41 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in 41 minutes. In Game 6, with the Heat on the verge of elimination, Butler played arguably the best game of his career, scoring 47 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists in front of a raucous Boston crowd to deliver the Heat into Game 7.
“It’s one of many nice performances of an elite competitor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Butler. “You know, Jimmy has this aggressive will that’s so distinctive that may be a expertise unto itself. There’s plenty of basketball gamers on this league. Jimmy is a good basketball participant. He’s a world-class competitor and he is aware of the right way to win basketball video games. That’s a expertise.
“And for young players coming into the league, I think that’s a missing talent or skill. It becomes about all the other skills. But that’s what makes Jimmy so unique as a world-class player. He just knows how to compete to win and to compete to not let you lose. That’s an incredible DNA that he has inside of him.”
In the tip, it was Tatum who acquired the very best of Butler and the Heat — and acquired some revenge for Miami’s conquer the Celtics within the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.
“He does everything,” Butler stated. “Shoot the ball, play in the pick-and-roll, he passes the ball incredibly well, gets out in transition. He’s a superstar, and he deserved that. They deserve the win. I wish them the best moving forward. He’s one hell of a player, that’s for damn sure.”