Home Sports Tatum’s strength is Luka’s weakness, and it’s deciding the NBA Finals

Tatum’s strength is Luka’s weakness, and it’s deciding the NBA Finals

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Tatum's strength is Luka's weakness, and it's deciding the NBA Finals

Tatum’s strength is Luka’s weakness and it is deciding the NBA Finals originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jayson Tatum’s critics have a peculiar problem: They’re angry because he’s not someone else.

Why isn’t he as passionate as Jaylen Brown? Why isn’t he as fiery as Anthony Edwards? Why isn’t he as ruthless as Kobe Bryant?

But if the NBA Finals have proven anything, it’s that maybe we should start celebrating Tatum for what he is: a calm, drama-free superstar in the mold of Tim Duncan, Joe Montana and Derek Jeter, who has the Celtics on the verge of victory. Banner 18.

The Finals have presented the perfect showcase for Tatum’s strength of personality by offering a “be careful what you wish for” contrast. Coming into this series, Luka Doncic was universally hailed as the best player on the court, the cornerstone you’d want to start a franchise with, the pick to win an MVP. Few would argue. The 2024 scoring champion is an impressive talent who adapts the pace of the game to his will as the most unstoppable offensive force in basketball.

He is also prone to bouts of mercurial resentment and mood instability that cost his team at their worst. Put less charitably, he can be a spoiled brat.

Doncic’s tantrums were on display in Game 3 on Wednesday. He came out on top as Dallas opened a 13-point lead in the first quarter. Then he went cold, started complaining about the refs, and the Celtics made their inevitable return.

On two occasions, Doncic stayed on the court after not getting a call while the Celtics scored on the odd-man rush. Then, in the fourth quarter, after Dallas had cut a 21-point deficit to one, Doncic foolishly tackled Jaylen Brown twice, earning him fifth and sixth fouls and an automatic disqualification. After the latter, he petulantly yelled at his bench to challenge him with beeps, like a small child in a sandbox.

The Mavericks disputed both whistles, but the first looked like a Greco-Roman takedown and the second withstood review. Both fouls were completely unnecessary, born of the fact that the Celtics have tortured Doncic all series on defense, where he calls it a broken tourniquet.

He did himself no favors after the match, abdicating personal responsibility in favor of criticizing the referees. “We couldn’t play physically,” Doncic complained. “I don’t know. I don’t want to say anything. Six fouls in the NBA Finals… Come on, man. (Be) better than that.”

Compare that to Tatum. Aside from some pressure on referees, which he has reduced considerably in the Finals, Tatum is unflappable. His personality on the podium, where he never loses his cool, does not raise his voice or intimidate anyone who asks him, is transferred to the floor.

And yet, many would like Tatum to be a “killer” like Doncic, conveniently ignoring that Tatum has the best postseason resume by far.

Luka curses opposing fans, badmouths defenders and frequently plays with a sneer. He exudes schoolyard bully vibes. Meanwhile, he was screaming “AND OOOOONNNNNEEEE!!!!!” and chest-beating teammates, Tatum rarely has a word for anyone. That’s why Labeling his post-shooting celebration as “The Kiss of Death” always felt wrong..

Tatum is not looking to kill anyone; The ritual began as a sign for his son, Deuce. It suits Tatum’s personality better to call it “The Goodnight Kiss,” images that are less violent, but no less definitive.

Because make no mistake, Tatum plays a legitimate thug role. It was hard to miss the juxtaposition down the stretch of Doncic falling for his sixth foul and Tatum attacking an errant inbound pass before launching a dunk past three defenders to finish the comeback. His disposition may not be demonstrative, but when Tatum squares those broad shoulders, there’s nothing remotely soft about his game.

So as the Celtics look to close out the series on Friday night, let’s take a moment to appreciate Tatum for who he is, which is calm, humble and true to himself. After all these years, maybe we can finally recognize his understated personality as a strength, not a weakness in need of a transplant.

The no-nonsense Celtics follow suit, and that path points toward history.

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