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LeBron James compares Jayson Tatum’s Finals performance to his first appearance in the NBA Finals: “He played against the same team of my first Finals”

James is right that his and Tatum’s first Finals appearance is similar, but if Tatum wants to follow in LeBron’s footsteps, he’s going to have to put in more work to reach championship status.
LeBron James compares Jayson Tatum’s Finals performance to his first appearance in the Finals

James discussed Tatum’s season and how he believes that Tatum’s encounter with the Warriors in the Finals was similar to his first Finals appearance against the San Antonio Spurs

Jayson Tatum’s first appearance in the NBA Finals certainly didn’t go how he expected it to. The Boston Celtics young star struggled mightily against an experienced Golden State Warriors team, and it wasn’t surprising to see Tatum and the C’s eventually fall to the Dubs in six games.

James sees a lot of similarities between his first Finals appearance and Tatum's Finals appearance

Many people quickly called out Tatum for his poor showing in the Finals, and realistically, who could blame them? Tatum failed to show up when his team needed him the most, and despite his teammates’ best efforts, they couldn’t beat the Warriors without Tatum playing at his best.

Many players have defended Tatum’s struggles in the aftermath of the 2022 Finals, and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has joined the chorus. In the newest episode of “The Shop” podcast, James discusses Tatum’s season and how he believes that Tatum’s encounter with the Warriors in the Finals was similar to his first Finals appearance against the San Antonio Spurs.

“He played against the same team of my first Finals. I played against the Spurs. It’s the same s---, same s---, and they took advantage of me not knowing much.” - LeBron James, The Shop.

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How similar were James and Tatum’s first Finals appearances?

LeBron’s comparison has raised a good question; just how similar were his and Tatum’s first Finals appearances? While they both had the misfortune of running into the dynasty team of that era, their individual performances and the circumstances surrounding each team were certainly different. First, let’s take a look at their numbers from their respective Finals series:

James (2007 against SAS): 22 PPG, 7 RPG, 6.8 APG, 35.1 FG%, 15.5 3P%

Tatum (2022 against GSW): 21.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7 APG, 36.2 FG%, 41.8 3P%

The numbers here are unbelievably close, with the only real difference being James struggled shooting threes, whereas Tatum was on fire from behind the arc. Of course, it’s worth noting that James had far less help than Tatum, which was the main reason for his struggles. The Spurs were throwing everything they had at LeBron, and it wasn’t really a fair fight.

With Tatum, the same cannot be said. He had a solid supporting cast, led by Jaylen Brown, that picked him up repeatedly throughout the Finals. Boston probably would have won if he had shown up, but Golden State’s defense coerced Tatum into poor shots and turnovers throughout the series.

The comparison James makes is very valid, but he had many more reasons to struggle against San Antonio than Tatum did against Golden State. Tatum can take solace in the fact that James would eventually go on to win a ring, but he will have to improve his game if he wants to follow a similar path.

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