Jayson Tatum wins Eastern Conference finals MVP, pays tribute to Kobe Bryant

2022-05-30 05:02

Boston Celtics swingman Jayson Tatum won the inaugural Larry Bird award as the MVP of the NBA Eastern Conference finals after the Celtics beat the Miami Heat 100-96 in Game 7.

Tatum, 24, wore Kobe Bryant's armband, delivering one of the most important performances of his career - 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in 46 minutes.

"I just really believe in myself, I just really believe in my team. It's the biggest game of the season, my career. I just had faith we were going to give it all we had. It feels great, honestly," he said post-game. 

Player of the Game
Jayson  Tatum
Jayson Tatum
Points 26
Accuracy 9-21
Rebounds 10
Assists 6

"It's a great honor. It's my third time in the Conference finals. Getting over the humps with this group means everything. I couldn't be more proud of these guys. Not a lot of people believed in us. We took the toughest route, and it worked out," Celtics' star added. 

Tatum also paid tribute to his late idol Kobe Bryant, wearing a purple armband with Bryant's No. 24. It's a similar armband to the one he wore on the Los Angeles Lakers legend's birthday on August 23, 2020, when the Celtics finished a sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Orlando bubble.

Commenting on the armband, the newly-crowned Eastern Conference finals MVP said:

"It's Game 7, everyone knows how much he means to me. He's my idol, my favorite player, I had to show him well in the biggest game of my career. Obviously, that was my inspiration."

Tatum also revealed that before taking his midday nap, he "watched the film and some moments from Kobe Bryant and his career."

"It's something I sometimes do," he noted.

Tatum came into Game 7 averaging 24.8 points, 8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists and repeatedly made big plays when the Celtics needed them, hitting several big shots and making strong defensive plays against Heat star Jimmy Butler. It was his way of helping the Celtics get some revenge for Miami's triumph in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors is Thursday in San Francisco.

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