Celtics star Jayson Tatum reflects on Father's Day on how being a dad changed his life and career

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BOSTON — Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum spent part of his Father's Day thinking about how his son made him a better person — and probably a better basketball player, too.

Speaking at practice the day before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Tatum acknowledged that he was "a little selfish" when he learned, as a teenager still in college with hopes of basketball stardom, that he would be a father.

"I'd be the first to say I wasn't super-thrilled to find out I was going to be a dad, and quickly realized that it was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. There's nothing better than being a dad," Tatum said Sunday. "I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason."

Now 26 and in his seventh season, Tatum is a five-time All-Star who has led Boston to the Eastern Conference finals five times and to the NBA Finals twice. The Celtics lead the Dallas Mavericks 3-1 in the best-of-seven series; after missing their first chance to clinch a title on Friday, they have a second shot at an unprecedented 18th championship banner on Monday night.

Tatum had just turned 19 and was in his only year at Duke when he learned his girlfriend at the time was pregnant.

"I wasn't ecstatic," Tatum said Sunday. "I was a little selfish at that point because I knew that I was about to go chase my dream and be in the NBA. I felt like that was going to affect what people thought of me, affect where I went in the draft."

Tatum was picked No. 3 overall by the Celtics, and Jayson Tatum Jr. – familiar around the Celtics as "Deuce" – was born in December of his father's rookie season. Having a son helped the NBA star manage the expectations of his new wealth and fame, and the temptations that came along with them, too.

"It taught me a sense of responsibility," Tatum said. "Nobody can help you or prepare you for what it's like to be 19 and have millions of dollars.

"And I think — not that I think, I know — that having Deuce at that age grounded me. Because whatever decision I wanted to make, I had to make sure that he was taken care of. I couldn't just up and go or do everything that some of my peers were doing because I had to go home and put him to bed. Or for Father's Day weekend I was going out of town, or I had to skip out on this trip with my friends because it was my weekend with him.

"Not that it's a sacrifice. I willingly would choose those things. But it has taught me a sense of responsibility — as well as just making the right decisions, knowing that there's a 6-year-old 'mini me' essentially watching everything that I do and knowing that I have to be the best version of myself. I have to make the right decisions, because he's always watching."


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