Jayson Tatum calls Kobe Bryant his 'inspiration to play basketball'

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

After Thursday morning’s Celtics shootaround, forward Jayson Tatum took some time to talk with the media about his mentor Kobe Bryant, who passed away over the weekend in a helicopter crash.

Here’s the full video, from WBZ’s Joe Giza:

Joe Giza on Twitter

???? #Celtics back at @tdgarden tonight for the first time since Kobe Bryant passed away. After shootaround @jaytatum0 spoke about his favorite player #WBZ https://t.co/3JfdDeZSlq

In the clip, Tatum calls Kobe his basketball inspiration. 

“I was born in ‘98,” the 21-year-old told reporters. “So I grew up watching him [Kobe]. Everybody knows he was my favorite player, my inspiration to play basketball. I didn’t get to watch Jordan, so Kobe was it for me.” 

Following his rookie season in the summer of 2018, Tatum spent time working out with Bryant. Tatum said his biggest takeaway from those sessions and his relationship with Bryant is Kobe’s dedication.

“For me, the thing I fell in love with about him is his work ethic," said Tatum. "How he wanted to outwork his potential and outwork everybody and prove that he was the best. And that’s exactly what he did.”

Before their game Thursday, the first at home since the tragedy on Sunday, the Celtics will replace their usual pregame introductions with a ceremony honoring Bryant. Asked if it’ll be tough to play after a tribute like that, Tatum admitted he knows it will be a challenge. 

“It’s still tough. It’s still heavy on our heart," said Tatum. "It’s still tough...Everybody respected Kobe. What he did and what he accomplished and what he was about.”

Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

Per source, the Celtics will be forgoing their usual pregame introductions tonight, instead using that time to honor Kobe Bryant.

However, Tatum did say it will be easier to take the floor, knowing it’s what his mentor would want.

“Knowing just how competitive he was, and he gave everything to the game," he said. "He would want us to [play].”

Thursday night will be Tatum’s first game in a week, he missed the Celtics three-game road trip with a groin injury. Tip-off against the Golden State Warriors is set for 8 p.m. at TD Garden. Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell have the call tonight on 98.5 The Sports Hub, starting with pregame coverage at 7:30 p.m.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected]