Jayson Tatum has been putting in work this summer. The 20-year-old guard has been taking in the best of the best in the 2018 NBA Summer League and he’s bringing the heat. After facing off against future NBA Hall of Famer Paul George, Jayson has faced off against another Hall of Famer in Kobe Bryant.

Jayson Tatum has yet to play a single game for the Boston Celtics. But the rookie forward has already made an impression. One day after his selection with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, he made an impromptu announcement that he would be wearing Kobe Bryant’s No. 10 for Team USA, the same number Kobe wore during the 2006 Olympics.

LAS VEGAS – Jason Tatum was 15 years old when he made his first U.S. basketball team. In 2013, he was selected to participate in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Uruguay. And one of the biggest impressions of this experience was getting his jersey.

He was wearing number 10.

Kobe Bryant’s number. Tatum’s favorite player’s number.

Bryant wore No. 24 and No. 8 for the Los Angeles Lakers and No. 10 for Team USA Basketball when he helped the Americans win gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Since then, Tatum has worn the number several times with the U.S. team – and he will wear it again at the Tokyo Olympics, where the Americans will try to win a fourth consecutive gold medal.

This is the first Olympics since we lost it, it makes it even more valuable, Tatum said. I don’t take it lightly.

The T-shirt with the number 10 on it has significance in various sports, especially in football, where it always graces the best players. Pele wore the 10 for the Brazilian national team. Diego Maradona wore it for Argentina and Lionel Messi is wearing it now. Landon Donovan wore it for the U.S. men’s soccer team when he led the program; it has since reverted to Christian Pulisic. For the US national football team, it belongs to Carly Lloyd.

Tatum wears the number 0 on the Boston Celtics team. The Celtics pulled out number 10 in honor of Joe Joe White.

For USA Basketball, the number 10 pick was Bryant. When he decided to skip the 2016 Olympics, the number went to Kyrie Irving, another player Bryant idolizes as much as Tatum. And now, just like two years ago when the U.S. went to the basketball world championship, Tatum owns the jersey.

I’m really happy for J.T. to have this moment, said U.S. national team center Bam Adebayo. I’ve known JT since I was 12 years old. He deserves everything he gets and will earn even more because he is a great player. I’m happy for him. He’s his idol, and he represents that song. I know he’ll have a Mamba mentality when he carries the 10.

When you consider that this is the first Olympics after his defeat, it becomes even more valuable. I don’t take it lightly.

Jason Tatum on wearing number 10 for Team USA.

Adebayo is another player who makes no secret of his affection for five-time NBA champion and Basketball Hall of Fame member Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020 along with one of his daughters and seven others while on their way to a basketball tournament. He wore Bryant’s shoes to games and said he was devastated that he never met him.

Tatum knew Bryant well. They trained together, and Bryant gave him a lot of advice.

I remember a conversation, it was maybe after the game, and he said a lot of people wouldn’t understand what you’re doing, Tatum said. He said: I mean, those who really want to be great and who really want to be special take on that mentality that you need. He told me that you have to make sacrifices, because the big question is what are you willing to give up to be great.

Team USA coach Gregg Popovich still regrets that Tatum was injured at the World Cup in China. This team is set up so that Tatum is a key player, according to Popovich – just as Bryant was on previous American teams. When Tatum was ruled out of the World Cup with an ankle injury, the Americans continued to fight for seventh place.

Popovich said Tatum has gotten even better.

He has become a more versatile player, Popovich said. He’s much more confident. He has more skills. He is also more aggressive and knows he can dominate people.

People have said the same thing about Bryant.

I remember the first team where I hoped and wished I had the No. 10 pick, Tatum said. Kobe, everyone knows he was my favorite player. I was 15 years old and I got to wear the number of my favorite player. I felt I had some kind of connection with him.

The connection will continue this summer. He doesn’t remember if he had to ask for a jersey in 2013, this summer he didn’t have to ask anyone. USA Basketball just released a list of names and jersey numbers, and Tatum got the number 10.

Right now, it’s Tatum’s sweater.

As far as he’s concerned, it still belongs to Bryant.

It’s a great honor, Tatum said. And I will wear it with pride.

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