CHICAGO -- In the days leading up to Sunday night’s 69th NBA All-Star game, Jayson Tatum, playing for Team LeBron, was intent on going at teammate and member of Team Giannis, Kemba Walker, every chance he could get.
True to form, Tatum went right at Walker moments into the second quarter when both were on the floor together.
He tried to take him into the post, but Walker wasn’t having it.
Tatum then pulled up for a fadeaway jumper that was off the mark.
Chalk that up to one of the many memories Tatum will take away from his first All-Star appearance.
Tatum would finish with six points while Walker tallied 23 as one of the key performers in Team Giannis' comeback that fell just short as Team LeBron escaped with a 157-155 win with the game-winning score coming on an Anthony Davis free throw.
But when it comes to the NBA All-Star game, points, rebounds and assists mean little.
More important are the relationships that are formed and in many instances, strengthened at such events.
Tatum has been one of the players in his age group for years, so there are a number of All-Stars that he has had a prior connection to, prior to tonight’s game.
But the one that has been arguably most important to his growth this season, has been that between him and Walker.
“Kemba, that's my guy,” Tatum said. “Our relationship and friendship has grown a lot over this season so far, from USA basketball to playing on the Celtics to experiencing All-Star together. So it's been a good ride. We're enjoying it.”
Walker is playing in his fourth All-Star game, a player whose status among the NBA’s elite is well cemented.
Prior to this season, Walker talked often about the growth he saw in Tatum’s game when they were Team USA teammates, along with fellow Celtics Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
Recognizing Tatum’s talent, that’s one thing.
But more than anything, Walker has made a point of encouraging Tatum to continue striving for greatness, and not worry about how that will impact him.
“I’m good. I know who I am and what I can do in this league,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston recently. “Jayson’s really good and part of my job here, is to let him know how great he is and do whatever I can to help him be great all the time.”
During an interview with NBC Sports Boston during All-Star weekend, Walker echoed those sentiments about Tatum.
“Like I’ve been saying all year, he’s a special talent,” Walker said. “He deserves to be here. I’m happy I’m able to share this one with him; especially his first one. This is the one he’s never going to forget, ever. I’m happy to be a part of it.”