Jayson Tatum scores All-Star record 55 points, wins MVP

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Monday, February 20, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY -- Team Giannis had Giannis Antetokounmpo for only one play because of his sprained right wrist. Team LeBron only had LeBron James for one half because of a right hand contusion and a plan to save the 20-year veteran's legs for theLos Angeles Lakers' post-break playoff push.

And so in Sunday night's NBA All-Star Game, the real competition ended up being betweenBoston'sJayson Tatum andCleveland'sDonovan Mitchell as they vied for MVP while playing for the same team.

While Mitchell, whom the Cavaliers acquired from the Jazzin the offseason, had the Utah return narrative going for him and scored 40 points, Tatum took home top honors, scoring 27 of his 55 points in the third quarter to lead Team Giannis to a 184-175 win. He shot 22-for-31 from the field (10-for-18 from 3) with nine rebounds and six assists.

Tatum set the record for most points in an All-Star Game, edging Anthony Davis' 52 points in 2017.

"I found out midway through the fourth [about the record]," Tatum said. "I think I had like 49 andDame [Lillard]was like, 'Yo, the record's 52.' He was like, 'Go get it.'"

Tatum, who grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant and trained with the Lakers legend early in his Celtics career, was awarded the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy after the game.

"It's extremely special to me," Tatum, 24, said. "My first All-Star Game was in Chicago in 2020 when they renamed the MVP after him, and I remember telling myself that someday I got to get one of those."

Tatum took home 11 of the 12 votes for the award, with Mitchell earning the other through a fan vote.

Mitchell, who came into the league in the 2017 NBA draft with Tatum, could only tip his hat.

"At the end of the day, he caught fire," Mitchell said. "There was a point and time where I said, 'Hey, I need one assist,' and that's when I handed the ball back to him and he ended up shooting, making it. It's all love. But at the end of the day, we're competitors too and wanted to both go get it, and he got it, and I'm happy as hell for him."

The Boston star capped off his sizzling third quarter by matching up with Celtics teammateJaylen Brown, motioning for the crowd to make some noise as he dribbled across half court seeking the one-on-one challenge from Brown.

"I think it was fun," Brown said. "Going against my brother in Jayson and going back and forth, it was like nobody was in there at all. It was just me and him."

Added Tatum: "That was like another day at the office for us. Being on the same team for six years now, we've played countless number of one-on-one games, scrimmages against each other. We've always kind of brought the best out of each other.

"So, that was a normal day for us. Just a myriad of people watching on one of the biggest stages."

Brown, who led Team LeBron with 35 points and 14 rebounds, said he was not surprised to see Tatum come out aggressive from the start with the MVP in mind.

"If you know Jayson, he's going for it," Brown said. "And that's what he's supposed to do."

Tatum was Antetokounmpo's No. 1 pick from the starters pool in the live draft.

"I had a little conversation with him, I knew he was going to play hard and he was going to take it serious," Antetokounmpo said of the selection. "So, it was a no-brainer."

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla coached Tatum on Team Giannis, with Boston having the East's best record at the All-Star break.

"Because of who Jaylen and Jayson are, you have to allow them to empower themselves for their individual legacy," Mazzulla said. "I think it's important for them, it's important for our team, it's important for our organization. So to watch Jayson go after a legacy like that was really awesome ... I'm glad that he was able to achieve that."

Antetokounmpo scored on the first possession and checked himself out to rest his sprained wrist, but he got his first win as an All-Star captain, improving his record to 1-2. James played 14 minutes in the first half, scoring 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting with four assists. He hurt a finger on his right hand attempting a chasedown block, and that was enough for him to call it a night. It was the first time James' team lost with him as All-Star captain, dropping his mark to 5-1.

Tatum said he had extra motivation because he debuted his signature sneaker, the Jordan Tatum 1, on Sunday.

"I wanted to win MVP, I didn't think I'd get 55, but this is icing on the cake," Tatum said.

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