Celtics’ Jayson Tatum disappointed Lakers didn’t draft him in 2017: ‘I was so close to a dream come true’

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The 2022 NBA playoffs were an ordeal for the Los Angeles Lakers. They went into the season as favorites to win the Western Conference but didn’t even make the postseason. Now they must watch as their eternal rivals, the Boston Celtics, vie for their 18th championship – which at 17 would break a tie the Lakers achieved just two years ago.

Add insult to injury? The player who led Boston to this success, Jayson Tatum, wanted to be a Laker. The new face of the Celtics is a lifelong fan of Kobe Bryant. He wore Bryant’s uniform for an NBA 75th anniversary shoot. He wore a purple and gold armband with Bryant’s number (24) on it in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Finally, in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Elizabeth Merrill, Tatum opened up about the design process that brought him to Boston.

The Celtics originally held the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. They were traded down to #3. Pick in 2nd place? The Lakers, who didn’t even allow Tatum a workout.

“The Lakers were my favorite team and Kobe was my favorite player,” Tatum said. “So it was crazy that the Lakers had second pick and I was so close to a dream come true. But it was like they didn’t want anything to do with me at the time.”

The Lakers eventually settled on Lonzo Ball, who only played two seasons in Los Angeles. In that sense, Tatum is lucky the Lakers didn’t pick him. They could very well have traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis if they did. They did that with Brandon Ingram, the 2016 NBA draft pick, who plays Tatum’s position (small forward) and went to the same college (Duke).

Landing in Boston was clearly the best result of Tatum’s career. He had immediate championship fights, missing the NBA Finals by a game in his rookie season before coming close again in 2020 in the Orlando bubble — when the Lakers won the championship. Now a fifth-year veteran, Tatum is in a great position to win his first title and it likely won’t be his last. Who knows where his career would have gone had he been a Laker, but it’s hard to imagine it would be much better.

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