This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.
BOSTON — The Boston Celtics’ cheerleaders had lined the walls near the tunnel deep inside TD Garden and, minutes after Boston’s win over the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 6, they roared in excitement when the birthday boy turned the corner from the court.
Two-year-old Jayson Christopher Tatum Jr. — better known by his nickname Deuce — smiled and playfully waved at the squealing well-wishers.
"People like him,” his All-Star father would later shrug.
Yes, Deuce Tatum might just be the biggest celebrity at TD Garden these days. Fans scream for him by name whenever he’s walking with his grandmother, Brandy Cole, to his loge-level seats. Ask the elder Tatum’s Celtics teammates and they’ll confirm that Deuce is easily the biggest rock star in the Tatum family.
"Deuce by far. He’s Deuce,” said Marcus Smart. "He’s got everybody changing his diapers and, whatever he wants, they’re attentive to him. It’s definitely Deuce by far. Whatever Deuce says goes. Deuce cries and it’s always like, ‘What’s wrong, Deuce?’ When JT cries, everybody just looks at him. I gotta go with Deuce.”
Tatum Jr. was born just two months into his father’s first NBA season. The elder Tatum had kept the news of his impending fatherhood quiet before he was born but now he’s very much a part of Tatum’s basketball journey.
At All-Star Weekend in Chicago last week, the Tatum boys posed together for pictures, the younger one wearing a shirt that read, “I’m kind of a big deal around here.” Video of the younger Tatum wearing a shirt with the airbrushed message, “My daddy is an All-Star,” went viral when he surprised Tatum in the Celtics’ training room after the announcement.
Deuce is everywhere, even if it’s simply his name and a heart shape etched on Tatum’s shoes before every game. Tatum Jr. invaded his father’s postgame news conference after his first 40-point game against the New Orleans Pelicans in January (hilariously grabbing at the windscreens on the microphones in front of him) and has been whisked off the court in his father’s arms after big wins over both Los Angeles teams over the past few weeks.
The elder Tatum, who was famously Cole’s college sidekick after she gave birth at a young age, appreciates getting to share these basketball moments with Deuce.
"It’s cool, to be young, myself, and kinda go through this journey of being an NBA player. We get to do it together,” said Tatum. “To be able to see … all the big joy and memories that I have here, and him coming to all the games, it’s fun.”
Deuce is a big enough celebrity that some Celtics fans have playfully started suggesting that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge should start stockpiling 2036 first-round draft picks so he can pair the Tatum father/son combo when the youngster turns 18.
Informed of this, Tatum laughed and said, "That would be cool.”
For now, he’s content to watch Deuce dominate on the mini hoop. But, as idols like LeBron James make long treks to watch their kids’ games, Tatum admits he’s excited about the possibility of being a basketball dad.
"If he grows up and wants to play basketball, I think about it. Just how he’ll play and just to watch him enjoy the game,” said Tatum. "I think he’s left-handed, too. So that’s good. When he grabbed the ball on the little hoop, he always grabs it with his left hand and dunks it. We’ll see.”
At All-Star Weekend, Deuce happily stomped onto the court during the team’s Saturday practice. He got up shots through an arms hoop made by Russell Westbrook. Later, Tatum Jr. sat courtside on his father’s lap, sandwiched between Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell, and watched All-Star Saturday night festivities while munching on a bag of pretzels.
The elder Tatum fills his social media with pictures of his celebrity son. Deuce has strutted around Madison Square Garden in Timberland boots and jeans. He floats around the Garden in the arms of Cole while wearing the most stylish Nike jumpsuits and freshest kid sneakers you’ll see.
Back in Tatum’s native St. Louis, the elder Tatum had a court dedicated to him at the Wohl Recreation Center. There beneath one of the free-throw lines is Deuce’s name in red cursive letters. Deuce is also in the name of an Air Max shoe that Nike crafted for Tatum.
Even Tatum’s Celtics teammates are trying to get in on the Deuce experience.
"I need a boy so it makes me a little jealous watching [Tatum] and Deuce. I love my girls, though," said Gordon Hayward, who has started bringing his girls onto the court at the Garden for some pregame dribbling exercises.
"It’s cool being able to talk to [Tatum] about being a father. That’s kinda helped us build our relationship. We’re able to connect on that level. There’s nothing like being a father. Certainly, as Deuce grows up, it’ll be fun for him.”
But it might be even more fun for Deuce.
Noted Enes Kanter: “Everybody in Boston, everybody in the whole world, loves [Deuce] and he’s having fun.”