Celtics

Jayson Tatum talked about how Olympic experience could help him become a ‘top-5 player’

"I spent half of my summer playing against the best players in the world."

Jayson Tatum Olympic experience
Jayson Tatum during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

As the Celtics prepare for a new season, Jayson Tatum is setting high goals for where he wants to be as both an individual and team player.

“I just got to be better. I have to elevate my level from being one of the top 10 to 15 players to a top-5 player,” Tatum told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated in a recent interview. “I have to try to make everyone else around me better.”

Having just spent part of his offseason helping Team USA win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Tatum returns to Boston after experiencing an extremely competitive environment among some of the NBA’s best.

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“I plan to take what I learned into next season,” said Tatum. “I spent half of my summer playing against the best players in the world. I played against KD [Kevin Durant] in practice, Book [Devin Booker] and all those guys. I feel like I got an early start to the season and will take it to the next step.”

The road to Olympic glory was far from easy for Team USA. Notable pre-Olympic losses to Australia and Nigeria were compounded by a defeat against France in the first game of the tournament.

But in the end, the U.S. still found a way to emerge as champions. In the gold medal game — in which the Americans avenged the earlier defeat to France with an 87-82 victory — Tatum’s 19 points was second only to Durant’s 29 (and the Celtics forward led the team with seven rebounds).

“It was amazing,” Tatum told Spears of the Olympic journey. “Obviously, we had a rocky start in Vegas the first game. It just made it that much sweeter. A lot of people were doubting us. They were questioning whether we could win or not.”

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