NBA players have dreams that, in some way, shape, or form, they put together in a list they draw their motivations for when the long nights and the tough games come.
A championship, an MVP trophy, and a max contract are likely to be among the items on top of that list, but a signature shoe can at times be found among those personal goals. Buying the latest Jordans or Kobes has certainly motivated some players to one day see their own sneakers on their feet and on the kids they hope to inspire.
Just recently, one of the NBA’s youngest and brightest stars inched closer to ticking that off his personal bucket list.
Fresh off his first (and likely not last) NBA Finals appearance, Jayson Tatum was reported to have his own signature sneaker with the Jordan Brand sometime in 2023, joining the likes of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Zion Williamson, and Luka Doncic in the brand’s stable of athletes that have been given their own shoes.
Tatum has already been among the Jordan brand’s most visible athletes, having multiple player editions and notable design inputs towards select colorways of Jordan (and even Nike) sneakers both new and old. His shoes are often unsurprisingly spotted on social media and it was then only a matter of time until the 24-year old had a shoe he could truly call his very own.
Of course, with signature shoes come expectations and at times these can be unfair considering the championship pedigree from the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, or the influence and abilities of the likes of Allen Iverson and LeBron James.
With more and more athletes getting signature sneakers with various brands, the goal posts have moved. Since time immemorial, brands sign players to signature shoe deals depending on who can bring on the most revenue and traction. This chase has at times led to brands going for whoever they can get their hands on, yet the promise of these players delivering can at times not pan out. Sometimes, the players are not at fault, but nevertheless it’s a gamble and for every Jordan there is a John Wall or a Gordon Hayward.
In Tatum’s case, it’s safe to say that he will have the chance to live up to those expectations. Each passing season has seen him raise his scoring while maintaining the same level of efficiency despite an uptick in his minutes and shot attempts. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see an MVP award (or a few) down the road along with multiple All-NBA selections to add to the two the 2021-2022 Eastern Conference Finals MVP currently has.
This past season was arguably Tatum’s best one so far, as career-highs in points per game (26.9), rebounds per game (8.0), and assists per game (4.4) coincided with the Boston Celtics’ best playoff run since they won it all back in 2008. The 2022 NBA Playoffs then saw Tatum at his best, leading the Celtics over the Brooklyn Nets, defending champions Milwaukee Bucks, and perennial postseason rival Miami Heat. Tatum and Boston were also two wins away (and at one point up 2-1 in the NBA Finals) from taking the title over the Golden State Warriors.
The taste of defeat without a doubt remains with Tatum and the Celtics and this season is an opportunity to build on that. Boston was arguably the best team in the NBA during the second half of the season and it helped prepare Tatum for the postseason. Getting back to that level is a good place to start, but one would rather peak at the right time and at the same time make the necessary tweaks before the margins become thin and the stakes get higher.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown but so too can the shoes be on one’s feet. A signature shoe awaits Jayson Tatum at the turn of the calendar, and while it does come with some weight of expectations, Tatum’s body of work has so far proven that that should be the least of anyone’s worries.