The Boston Celtics never backed down during the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, making the right adjustments every time the Floridians became a problem for them. That was the common thing during the series, which ultimately ended with the C's taking Game 7 in South Beach, with Jayson Tatum leading the way for them.
Even though it wasn't the biggest performance of all, Tatum showed up, just like he was asked before the game, and took care of business, leading his team to its first NBA Finals since 2008.
He was really motivated by his idol and mentor, as he wore a Kobe Bryant armband for Game 7. In the end, it worked, as Tatum's 26 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists took the C's to the biggest series of all against a hostile crowd that did everything to get under the Celtics' skins.
Kobe's impact on Tatum's life and career is huge, and the young forward never forgets the things he learned with the Black Mamba. In the aftermath of the game, we learned some details about Tatum's 'ritual' before the game. He texted Kobe's old number, making it clear he would make him proud:
"I got you today 🤞🏼," he texted Kobe.
Even though some would find a way to criticize this gesture, it shows that JT always has his mentor in mind and there was nobody better to be inspired by than Kobe before a Game 7. He lived for those moments and Tatum aspires to reach a level close to Bryant's greatness:
"You know, obviously that was my idol, that was my inspiration as my favorite player. The shoes I’ve been wearing the last couple of years, dedicated to him. Today, before I took my nap, I was watching some film and some moments from his career. Biggest game of my career thus far. I wanted to wear that armband to honor him and kinda share that moment."
In the end, he won the game for the Celtics, helped by Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart (24 points each), and now are ready to face the biggest challenge of the season. The Golden State Warriors wait for them in the Finals, and here is when Tatum needs to get that Mamba Mentality to beat a team that looks incredibly strong right now.