When it comes to the NBA’s greatest players, there always come caveats.

Michael Jordan’s titles only came once he had Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant may be the greatest player in terms of maximizing his talent, but it came at a cost that’s looked down on by today’s metrics. Bill Russell won 11 NBA championships, but that came at a time when there were less games and teams. LeBron James is the league’s all-time scorer, but his NBA Finals record is not pretty.

Jayson Tatum is one of this generation’s current stars, but instead of caveats, he’s facing questions that hound him like a pack of rabid wolves (no pun intended).

Why does Tatum seemingly disappear during certain times where the Boston Celtics need him the most? Is he being carried by Jaylen Brown and his roster? What will it take for him and the Celtics to get over the proverbial NBA title hump?

The 2024 NBA Finals present an opportunity to erase the doubts and put Tatum on the path of those who looks up to. He has had stellar performances at every stage except for the championship round. It was during the 2022 NBA FInals where he and Boston truly felt that a title chase is a marathon and not a sprint.

The Dallas Mavericks are a quality opponent and will provide intriguing storylines thanks to Kyrie Irving and the way the Mavericks’ personnel can match up well with that of the Celtics. So far, Tatum has taken on all comers this season, with his contributions going beyond just points.

His playmaking has opened more opportunities for the likes of Derrick White and Jaylen Brown, both of whom have put on huge performances that have led Boston to their 23rd NBA Finals appearance. As a result, Tatum’s other winning contributions, rather than his points, were needed more for this campaign.

Looking at the bigger picture, Tatum has matured. His current postseason averages of 26.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.1 steals aren’t career-highs, but they nonetheless have great value. Also gone are the days when he would impress a national TV audience with his virtuoso performances that were shades of his childhood idol Kobe Bryant.

They’ve been replaced with a display of leadership that is required for an NBA championship. That, along with the intangibles that don’t get noticed often have paid dividends. However, the standard remains lofty for the greats so just like them, these won’t mean much without a ring.

The trouble with Jayson Tatum is that despite the greatness he has shown, questions still surround him. They certainly will hound him during the 2024 NBA Finals, but Tatum can leave the doubts in the dust if he emerges with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy when all is said and done.