BOSTON – St. Louis native Jayson Tatum is NBA Finals-bound for the second time in three years.

A perennial MVP candidate, Tatum is still pushing for his first NBA title after seven seasons on the big stage. His quest continues Thursday evening as Tatum and the Boston Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Jayson Tatum, a power forward by trait, is widely considered one of the most prolific NBA players of all-time from St. Louis. At 26 years old, Tatum has established himself as the face of the Celtics franchise and found new ways to elevate his game each year.

Tatum earned his fifth consecutive All-Star selection this season. He averaged nearly 27 points per game this season (26.9), the second-best mark of his career, only trailing last year’s 30.1 PPG mark. He averaged eight rebounds per game for the third consecutive regular season campaign, also setting a new high in assists per game (4.9) this past season.

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Tatum has performed right around those marks in this year’s NBA playoffs so far, though really stepped up his game in Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals sweep over the Indiana Pacers. He averaged 30.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game in the sweep of the Pacers, all near personal bests for one individual playoff round.

“Part of my motivation is, I just love to win,” said Tatum in a media session Wednesday ahead of the NBA Finals. “And understanding the moment of how hard it is to get to the NBA Finals. You think that you’re young, and you’ve been once, and you’ll continue to keep going. We realize that last year, we kind of took that for granted at certain moments and we didn’t make it to the Finals. This year, put things in perspective, and I think you can see our excitement when we won the conference. Obviously, that’s not the end-all, be-all, but it’s really tough to get to this moment.”

Tatum says the Celtics run to the NBA Finals in 2022 gave him new perspective on preparing for his upcoming Finals series. The Celtics lost that series in six games.

That followed another close run to the NBA Finals last season, during which the Celtics lost a winner-take-all Game 7 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“I hate that we had to go through it. I wish we would’ve won. But I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” said Tatum. “There’s a lesson to be learned in every situation. I feel a lot different this time. This go-around two years later, I’m excited for the opportunity for us to get the job done.”

Winning isn’t something unfamiliar to Tatum, after all. He took home a Gold Medal with Team USA’s men’s basketball team in the 2020 Summer Olympics. The Celtics have won 51 regular-season games out of 82, on average, since Tatum joined the team. They have made it to at least the Eastern Conference Finals in five of his seven years.

That success carried over from his high school days in the St. Louis area. Tatum graduated from Chaminade College Preparatory School in Creve Coeur in 2016. In three seasons with the varsity boy’s basketball team, he averaged at least 25 points and nine rebounds per game each campaign.

Chaminade rallied to back-to-back Final Four state appearances in Tatum’s junior and senior years before he closed out his high school career with a state championship in 2016. Tatum scored 40 points in Chaminade’s state title-clinching win over Kickapoo.

Tatum then took his talents to Duke University for one season, where he averaged 16.8 points per game, won 28 games and made it to the second-round in the NCAA Tournament. His standout efforts, on the heels of a dominant high school career, led Tatum to become the third overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Frank Bennett, Tatum’s primary high school basketball coach, described him as “a guy that has everything at his fingertips and is still a grounded, down-to-earth guy,” in a 2022 interview with FOX 2.

Tatum has also paid tribute to his St. Louis roots through endorsements with Nike and Imo’s Pizza throughout the years. From time-to-time, he will also help with summer basketball camps in the St. Louis area.

“For a guy at the highest level in his profession, and to ascend to the highest ranks of a profession that so many kids idolize and want for themselves, it inspires people,” said Bennett. “It inspires young kids that were once the Jaysons of the world. It gives them hope that they can accomplish things right before our eyes.”

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According to, only seven players with St. Louis-area roots have ever won an NBA championship. Otto Porter Jr.. who was born in St. Louis but raised in Sikeston, Missouri, is the most recent champion from the region, winning a title with the Golden State Warriors in 2022 against Tatum.

One St. Louis native has won the NBA Finals with the Celtics. Jo Jo White picked up two titles with Boston and took home NBA Finals MVP honors in 1976. 

Tatum has the chance to become the second for a storied Celtics franchise, tied for the Los Angeles Lakers for the most championships in NBA history.

“I think right now, just staying present in the moment,” said Tatum on his personal goal ahead of the series. “I’m not thinking about what it would mean for my legacy or anything like that. Just excited to play some basketball after this long break, go out there and try to get the job done.”

Tip-off for Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for 7:30 p.m. CT Thursday. The game will be broadcast on your local ABC affiliate.

Tatum and the Celtics will host the first two games in a best-of-seven series against the Dallas Mavericks, a star-studded team that includes Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.