Jayson Tatum has never made his fandom of the Lakers a secret. Growing up a fan of Kobe Bryant and the franchise he spent his whole career with, Tatum was this close to living out his dream in 2017 heading into the NBA Draft. The Lakers had landed the No. 2 pick and Tatum was one of the top prospects in the draft.
Obviously, Tatum’s draft story did not have the fairytale ending he’d dreamed of. In fact, from a fandom point of view, being passed up by the purple and gold only to be drafted by the Celtics is just about as bad as it gets.
Things worked out just fine for the Lakers and Tatum — they’ve won a title since his draft year and he’s just now cemented himself as one of the top young stars in the NBA by leading the Celtics to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than a decade. Even so, he couldn’t help but revisit that 2017 draft in a piece by Ramona Shelburne and Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.
“The Lakers were my favorite team, and Kobe was my favorite player,” says Tatum, who wore a purple No. 24 wristband to honor Bryant in Boston’s win against the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. “So it was crazy that the Lakers had the second pick and I was so close to a dream come true. But it was just like they didn’t want anything to do with me at the time.”
As the piece explains, suggesting Tatum was a realistic option for the Lakers in 2017 is a bit of revisionist history. At the time, consensus prospect rankings held Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball in a tier above the rest of the class.
In fact, the Lakers never worked out Tatum, though they attempted to get a workout with him late in the predraft process. But that was only a secondary option in case the Lakers traded back in the draft, never having actually considered selecting him with that No. 2 pick.
Even after entering the league, though, Tatum hasn’t exactly changed his mindset about the Lakers. He appeared in a commercial before this season celebrating the NBA’s 75th anniversary in a Kobe Bryant jersey. He’s also sported a purple armband with the No. 24 on it in honor of Kobe during these playoffs.
Perhaps there is an eventual storybook ending down the road where Tatum becomes a Laker. There would be no better way endear himself to Lakers fans — if he even needed to at this point — than to jump ship from Boston to Los Angeles. But it’d be pretty safe to say that after everything he’s done in the league since entering it five years ago, if given another opportunity, the Lakers would probably want something to do with him now.