Larry Bird is in a way one of the most underrated superstars in NBA history. He won 3 straight league MVP’s which has never been done in the history of the NBA’s existence; although Nuggets’s superstar Nikola Jokic might have a chance at replicating Larry’s incredible feat which he accomplished in the 1980’s in an era which included a multitude of first ballot hall-of-famers such as Magic Johnson,Julius Erving,Moses Malone,Hakeem Olajuwon,Michael Jordan,Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,Isiah Thomas, and Clyde Drexler just to name a few. That makes Larry Bird winning 3 straight league MVP’s all that more impressive being that he did at a time when the league was expanding it’s popularity and Larry was at the forefront of what the 1980’s comprised of which was the infamous rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson; two basketball legends who represented the two biggest basketball markets in the history of the NBA like no other. Hefty shoes for ascending superstar Jayson Tatum who is seeking to carve out a legacy like no other Celtic other than Larry Bird has.
It’s not always about the rings, off the top I know you are probably asking yourself well what about Bill Russell? Bill Russell dominated the game like no other player in NBA history, he won 8 straight titles at one point with a grand total of 11 and he never gets brought up in GOAT debates let alone as the greatest Celtic ever. Well that’s just because he played in a time where racism was at an all-time high and not everyone was fortunate or wealthy enough to own a TV to watch Bill Russell dominate the league. Larry Bird was recognized as the greatest Celtic ever because he took the storied franchise to new heights from the moment he laced up his Converse high-tops. So the question is can Jayson Tatum one day overtake the great Larry Bird as the greatest Celtic ever? Well we would practically be asking Jayson Tatum to be regarded as at least one of the top 15 players of all-time by the time he retires which is possible and something I would bet on him becoming but then there is the possibility he might not reach that level since he is playing at a time where the skill level is at an all-time high and the competition is steep.
Tatum’s career so far doesn’t add up to Larry’s quite frankly, it’s not even close. We have to keep in mind Jayson Tatum was a late-bloomer while Larry Bird came in NBA ready his very first season; not to mention this current season is really Jayson Tatum’s real first season where you could put him in discussion for being regarded as one of the top 5 players in the game. He was a top 10 player in the NBA last season and saying he was a top 5 player last season would’ve been a stretch; it would be sort of like regarding former Celtic Paul Pierce as one of the top 5 players in the NBA in the 2000’s where superstars like Kobe Bryant,Shaquille O’Neal,Allen Iverson,Tim Duncan, and Jason Kidd were clearly the head of the pack. If Tatum had lead the Celtics to a title last season and beat the Warriors I believe he would’ve had a hell of a head start in the race to match Larry but he was 2011 LeBron like bad against Golden State in last year’s Finals and I really hope the 2022 NBA Finals was the setback he needed to kick-start a legacy no one in the league sees coming.
LeBron James had carried the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals 2007 where school was in session against a seasoned San Antonio Spurs team with a championship pedigree LeBron simply couldn’t match due to inexperience at the biggest stage. LeBron’s head got too big after scoring 25 straight points en route to eliminating the Detroit Pistons and he underestimated the Spurs much like Tatum underestimated the Warriors. Tatum was the best player on a team which went on a rampage in last season’s second half; he had the notorious 46 point game in at TD Garden against Giannis’s Milwaukee Bucks and after that game I really convinced myself Jayson Tatum would be the new Kobe Bryant of the NBA. I guess you could tell I came away highly frustrated Tatum didn’t close the deal against the Warriors; add on I’m not the biggest Stephen Curry fan and I had to stomach Steph showboating counting up 4 rings. The Celtics finishing the deal against the Warriors would’ve made for the best season turnaround in NBA history and a true Cinderella Story.
Tatum has from now till 2032 to make some history and for him to surpass Larry in most people’s eyes he’s going to have to win at least 3 titles before he retires which is definitely within reach. He’s 24 years old and from the looks of it barring injury he’ll be a top 5 player in the NBA from now till at least the year 2030 when he’ll be right around 30-31 years old and likely takes a slight decline. I’ll predict he wins 2 league MVP’s,3 titles,and 3 Finals MVP’s in that 8-9 year span putting him on par with the great Larry Bird. Larry unfortunately had to retire while he was still one of the top 5 players in the game in the NBA leading into the 90’s due to back injuries which came from lifting heavy logs while doing farm work. That’s where Tatum will have the edge over Larry, he’ll likely possess the longevity which held Bird back from being regarded as one of the top 3 players in NBA history. It’s perfect timing for the Celtics to have glory days once again, Jayson Tatum is made of the right stuff to give the Boston cheerful moments only a true legend could provide.