Jayson Tatum becomes first NBA All-Star MVP of his career with record-breaking performance

SALT LAKE CITY — In an All-Star game almost entirely devoid of dramatic moments, Team Giannis’ Jayson Tatum stepped to the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter at Vivint Arena when an announcement was made.

“If Jayson Tatum takes that free throw, he will break the record for most points scored in an NBA All-Star game…”

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And with that, the Boston Celtics star not only broke the previous record of 52 points (set by the Lakers’ Anthony Davis in 2017), but capped a feat that earned him MVP honors and the accompanying Kobe Bryant trophy. He finished with 55 points and hit 22 of 31 shots (10 of 18 of three) while his Team Giannis beat Team LeBron 184-175.

The game itself was as stunning as any in recent memory, with the Elam ending unveiled to rave reviews during the 2020 League All-Star Game in Chicago not inspiring even a modicum of competitiveness this time. Nuggets coach Michael Malone (who managed Team LeBron) didn’t deduct any punches in his post-game evaluation.

Tatum’s Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown spoke for the crowds when asked about the level of play afterwards.

But Tatum was dynamic, and his back-and-forth with Brown (of Team LeBron) late in the third quarter was the diamond in that basketball rough. Tatum, who set an All-Star record for most threes in a quarter with a seven in the third, handed a three to Brown followed by a playful “too small” taunt as they ran down the floor. Tatum answered on the other end, burying a three from left wing and giving the crowd the same three-fingered kiss he’d done for so many years of his career. When Tatum’s defense on next possession prevented Brown from getting a shot before the buzzer sounded, he gave him a butt on the way back to the bench.

“It was like a normal day at the office for us, wasn’t it?” said Tatum, a four-time All-Star who has never won MVP honors. “I’ve been on the same team for six years now. We’ve played countless one-on-ones and scrimmages against each other. We’ve always somehow brought out the best in each other. So it was just a normal day for us. Just millions of people were watching on one of the biggest stages, so we had some fun with that.”

Tatum, who grew up idolizing Bryant and became close to him before his death on Jan. 26, 2020, said the honor has all sorts of additional meanings.

“Yes, it’s very special to me,” he said. “My first All-Star game was in Chicago in 2020 when they renamed the MVP after him. I remember telling myself that day I need to get one of these before I’m done.”

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

https://theathletic.com/4230869/2023/02/20/jayson-tatum-nba-all-star-mvp/ Jayson Tatum becomes first NBA All-Star MVP of his career with record-breaking performance

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