Monday, May 20, 2024

Jayson Tatum ‘Would Love’ to Play Basketball for Team USA at 2024 Paris Olympics (Exclusive)

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Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum is looking for the full Olympic experience this summer.

Tatum, 26, won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and now he’s hoping to return to Team USA when the Games take over Paris this summer.

“I would love the opportunity,” Tatum tells PEOPLE of representing Team USA this summer.

NBA analysts from ESPN and The Boston Herald, among others, expect Tatum will earn a selection on the roster. He was one of 48 players pooled by USA Basketball Men’s National Team managing director Grant Hill.

“I played in Tokyo three years ago and won the gold medal, and that experience was different because it was still around COVID,” says Tatum, noting that “there were no fans” at the events.

He adds, “And we couldn’t bring our families or go to any other events, so hopefully, this summer I’m fortunate enough to be on the team and get the full Olympic experience. I think that would be special.”

Along with Tatum, LeBron James is among the pool of players potentially suiting up for Team USA this summer.

On an episode of his new podcast, Mind the Game, the Los Angeles Lakers star, 39, spoke highly of Tatum, calling him “elite” for having so much success at his young age.

“That’s the ultimate compliment,” Tatum says of James’s praise. “That’s a guy that I’m very close with, and I’m thankful that I have a relationship with him. He’s been doing this for 21 years. Everybody in the league essentially has grown up watching LeBron.”

LeBron James.

Justin Ford/Getty

Tatum feels that the compliment from James is “the ultimate sign of respect” in the NBA.

“That’s far more important than, I would say, the people that are on TV commentating, and things like that,” he explains. “I think as a competitor and as a player to earn the respect of the people you compete against, there’s nothing better than that.”

Tatum and the Celtics are among the favorites to win it all this NBA season as they blaze through the remaining regular season games. Boston is 11 games ahead of the second-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the East, and six games ahead of the West’s top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

Jayson Tatum.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty

But Tatum says the pressure to continue their stellar performance is a “good thing” for the Celtics. “It means we’re doing something right. We have a good team and people expect us to be one of the last teams standing,” he says.

“It’s getting to that exciting time. The playoffs are right around the corner. So using these last few weeks of this season to fine-tune things that we’re trying to master as we get towards the playoffs, and hopefully we can stay healthy and make a long run.”

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Beyond basketball, Tatum is expanding his professional portfolio into the fashion world as Coach’s newest ambassador.

“It means a lot to be able to join the brand in such an organic and authentic way,” Tatum says of the new gig, which involves the athlete looking suave in Coach’s spring 2024 accessories in a debut campaign. “It’s been a lot of fun.” 

Fans can expect to see Tatum decked out in Coach during his tunnel walks on game days.

“The tunnel walk has become this almost iconic thing that players look forward to,” Tatum says of pregame photo opps. “I think it’s great for fashion, it’s great to see these ball players take ownership and really express themselves in different ways. Everybody’s style is different and unique.”

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