SALT LAKE CITY — Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum entered All-Star weekend wanting one of two things, if not both: a 3-Point Contest title and the Kobe Bryant MVP Award. He was the last player eliminated in the first round of Saturday's shootout, but he managed to leave with more than he bargained for on Sunday.
With a free throw late in the fourth quarter of the 2023 NBA All-Star Game, Tatum scored his record-breaking 53rd point, eclipsing the mark previously set by Anthony Davis in 2017. Needless to say, he was the unanimous selection among the nine media members who voted for the exhibition's MVP honor.
It was quite the promotion for his newly released Tatum 1 signature shoe from Jordan Brand.
"It's extremely special for me," said Tatum, who grew up idolizing Bryant, the late Los Angeles Lakers legend. "My first All-Star Game was in Chicago in 2020 when they renamed the MVP after him. I remember telling myself that day that I've got to get one of those before I get done. To be able to wear my signature shoe today and break the record and take home this award of somebody that I idolized, it's a hell of a day."
Tatum finished with 55 points on 22-of-31 shooting (10 of 18 from 3-point range), leading Team Giannis to a 184-175 victory in the All-Star Game. He added 10 rebounds and six assists in his 35 minutes of action.
"I think I had, like, 49, and [Damian Lillard] was, like, 'The record is 52, go get it,'" said Tatum, who became the first player to register a 50-point game during the regular season, playoffs and All-Star weekend.
Tatum entered halftime with 17 points before exploding for a single-quarter record of 27 points in the third, highlighted by a handful of possessions going toe-to-toe opposite Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown.
"That was like another day at the office for us, right?" said Tatum, whose Celtics (42-17) lead the East. "Been on the same team for six years now. We've played a countless number of one-on-one games and scrimmages against each other. We've always brought the best out of each other, so it was a normal day for us. Just millions of people watching on one of the biggest stages, so we had a little fun with it."