Remember this Instagram photo from Jayson Tatum?
It seemed innocuous at the time: the Boston Celtics forward, fresh off his new deal with Jordan Brand, hanging out with a few basketball notables -- among them Kemba Walker and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan -- at a company event in Paris in late June.
Then word leaked three days later that the Celtics were a "stealth suitor" for Walker in free agency. Five days after that, Walker had agreed to four-year, $141 million maximum contract with Boston to become the new face of the franchise.
All of which begs the question: Was Tatum pitching Walker on the Celtics right under Jordan's nose?
The answer, as Walker confirmed in an interview aired Wednesday with ESPN's Jackie MacMullan, was yes.
"Me and Jayson actually spoke for quite some time," Walker said of their interactions in Paris. "Jayson’s such a good guy, such a great player. For the most part, I like being around high-character guys with work ethic. Just guys who I can be around, be myself around. That’s kind of the vibe I got from JT when I was around him."
"When we left Paris, as the days went on and free agency came and I made my decision, a lot was because of him.”
But Tatum wasn't aggressive in trying to convince Walker to leave Charlotte. In fact, Walker insisted Tatum never told him outright to come to Boston.
"It was more so about the city, about the fans, the atmosphere, coach (Brad) Stevens and some of the players on the team, last year and how things went," Walker said. "Just stuff like that. Not once did he say, ‘come.’ Not once.' "
Walker said he also spent time with Jaylen Brown two years ago in Africa, describing the young Celtics forward as "a great kid" who's "so down to earth."
It took a lot for Walker to leave Charlotte, the only NBA team he'd known. But his positive impression of Tatum and Brown clearly played a factor in his decision ... which means Celtics fans owe Jordan a "thank you" for inviting Tatum to Paris.
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