ST. LOUIS — To some people he’s known as JT, others may call him Jayson Tatum, an NBA star. But to the St. Louis native, he’s not just a hooper.
"I tell people all the time, 'Yeah I'm famous, but I've been a regular normal black man in America much longer,'" Boston Celtics star, Jayson Tatum said.
In order to really understand who Jayson Tatum is, you must look past his plethora of banners in Chaminade’s gymnasium and go back to where it all started.
“My dad coached at Soldan for like six years, so when I was in fourth grade until like 9th or 10th grade, I used to practice with him four to five times a week,” Jayson said.
The practices for Jayson were pretty brutal. As the coach's son, his mistakes stood out.
“He was like the meanest person ever when I was growing up,” Jayson said jokingly as he remembered the times with his dad as a teenager. “If I messed up, he was harder on me than he was the other kids. I used to cry every day, I used to basically almost quit basketball every day because of him.”
"I was like, 'Man you light-skinned, you got to come in here and got to be tough," Jayson’s dad, Justin Tatum said with a smile.
But the young phenom now said he’s grateful. Those tough lessons and long nights were exactly what he needed. He needed someone to stick by him and challenge him past his potential. This is something he wouldn’t change for the world.
“He saw the potential in me before I saw it in myself, so having him be that tough on me in basketball really you know, made me tougher on and off the court,” Jayson said.
Justin said he knew if his son could withstand a tough atmosphere at Soldan, he could handle anything life threw him. This meant all things beyond the basketball court.
“He got a good like at the overall culture of St. Louis,” Justin said. "We didn't want to shelter him from anything that was real."
Jayson admitted to seeing his fair share of good and bad in the city. He said many people don’t realize what it’s like for kids to grow up in certain neighborhoods and still be able to stay focused, which is more reason Jayson has let his voice be heard in light of the recent tragedies in America.
His outlook on life is more similar to his dad now. Jayson has a young son and wants him to be able to look back on the year 2020 and know his dad wasn’t afraid to speak up for what he believed in.
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“Just for him to know his dad stood for something and he was on the right side of history and that he used his platform, used his voice for change and for the better,” Jayson said.
Jayson’s decision to speak out means a lot to Justin. It makes him proud to see his son in this element and know many people are proud of him too.
“I have no words for it, it speaks volumes,” Justin said. “I love it, I'm here to change young man’s lives when I coach and teach and things like that and he can help change the world so that's huge.”