Jaylen Brown just did his best Kylian Mbappé impression after he and the Boston Celtics agreed to what is currently the largest contract in NBA history.
Someone (likely teammate Jayson Tatum) will eventually sign a contract that will trump Brown’s extension, but his current deal already surpassing that of 2023 NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic (five years, $270 million) and being double the famous (or infamous) five-year, $153-million max extension signed by Mike Conley back in 2016 is already astounding in itself.
Brown was eligible for the supermax after being named to the 2022-2023 All-NBA Second Team. The feat was well-deserved given that he averaged career-highs in points (26.6), rebounds (6.9), and assists (3.5), all while leading the Celtics to a 57-25 record and to within a win of reaching the NBA Finals.
A huge commitment like this ends years of speculations surrounding Brown’s status within Boston, who selected him with the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. In the last few seasons, he has been the subject of trade rumors, most of which were fueled with each postseason exit. There’s been much discussion about the potential of Brown and Tatum, but each season that sees them without a championship only adds to the conversation on whether or not they are better off apart.
The uncertainty can be a nagging thought at the back of his head, even with all the rhetoric of compartmentalizing and focusing on his play on the court. Apart from the money and the guaranteed years, this kind of deal puts a huge weight off Brown’s shoulders.
But just like power, a great contract comes with great responsibility.
As good as he is, Brown must still answer for the things that have made his signing a divisive topic. His costly turnovers and aversion to going left are well-documented and have been the subject of sports talk shows and social media discourse at the end of the Celtics’ season. It has also made him a target on defense, with opponents timing their pressure defense and ball tips in order to capitalize on some of the forward’s errors.
There are a handful of ways to address these issues, but all will require a more deliberate approach to the game. At 26, Brown still has the athleticism to win out some individual matchups, but there will come a time where his smarts will be the key to victory. Winning possessions through getting around and not through defenses will lead to winning games. That may at times mean not doing too much (dribbling) and staying on the sidelines, pouncing when the defense makes the careless mistake of leaving him uncovered. Ultimately, there was a reason Boston was comfortable with letting go of Marcus Smart and Grant Williams, and the two-time All-Star must repay that faith.
Of course, the change won’t happen overnight and it likely won’t be consistent, but it will have to be evident given that the bar has been raised. Whether the Celtics win or lose, he has to show up and put up his best effort. After all, from Boston’s perspective, Brown’s supermax was the first domino to fall.
Tatum is now the Celtics’ next supermax target and a potential agreement between him and Boston could be partly contingent on Brown’s play for this upcoming season. If Brown continues to make strides with his play, then it should be an easier decision for Tatum and NBA titles should come in short order. However, if Brown falters down the stretch, then we’ll be hearing the perennial conversations surrounding the viability of a Brown and Tatum partnership, regardless if they’re rational or not.
Jaylen Brown now joins an elite company of players with a supermax contract but can he live up it? That’s the $304-million question that will be answered in a few years. It could be unfair to put a chunk of responsibility on Brown, but then again, heavy is the head that wears the crown or in this case… signs the largest supermax to date.