Jayson Tatum wins inaugural Larry Bird MVP for Eastern Conference finals performance

Tatum scored 26 points in the Game 7 win.

Jayson Tatum received the Larry Bird MVP following Game 7. Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

A Celtic is the first-ever winner of the Larry Bird trophy, which is given to the most valuable player of the Eastern Conference finals.

Star forward Jayson Tatum was named the winner of the award during the Eastern Conference trophy ceremony after the Celtics defeated the Heat in Game 7 on Sunday. Tatum scored a team-high 26 points on 9-of-21 shooting with 10 rebounds and six assists in the 100-96 win for the Celtics. Tatum scored 25 points per game on 46 percent shooting and averaged 8.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.

Tatum said it was a “great honor” to receive the award, but he was happier that he finally broke through in the conference finals in his third trip.


“To get over the hump with this group, it means everything. So, I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Tatum told ESPN’s Lisa Salters during the award presentation. “The road that we took to get here, not a lot of people believed in us. We took the toughest route, and it worked out.”

While Tatum was honored with an award named after a Celtic legend, he honored a Lakers legend in Game 7. Tatum wore a purple armband with “24” on it, paying homage to Kobe Bryant.

“Game 7,” Tatum said when asked why he wore the armband. “Everyone knows how much he means to me. He’s my idol and my favorite player. Just to have something to show him in the biggest game of my career so far, and it worked out.”

Tatum made a couple of Bryant-like shots in the fourth quarter. With the shot clock winding down, Tatum made a contested, step-back 3-pointer that gave the Celtics a 93-81 lead with 5:54 left. Two possessions later, Tatum got the ball again off an in-bounds with the shot clock winding down, getting open from Jimmy Butler, and drained an 18-foot jumper to give the Celtics a 95-85 lead.

Those two shots ended up being pivotal as the Heat went on an 11-0 run to cut the Celtics’ lead to 98-96 with less than 30 seconds left. Butler missed a pull-up 3-pointer that would’ve given Miami the lead, and after Marcus Smart made a pair of free throws, Boston got one last stop to advance to the NBA Finals.


Tatum received eight of the nine votes for the award, with Butler receiving the other vote.


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