As I sat down with my popcorn to watch Team USA take on France in the Olympic gold medal game for men’s basketball on Friday night, Aug. 6, I was confident that the USA would win.
I was equally confident that St. Louisan Jayson Tatum would have a big hand in Team USA’s victory with an outstanding performance on the biggest stage that international basketball has to offer.
And Mr. Tatum did not disappoint. He came through with 19 points and seven rebounds on eight of 14 shooting from the floor and added three 3-pointers in the USA’s 87-82 victory. He accomplished all this in just 21 minutes of action.
It was a magnificent performance by Tatum, but it should not be surprising if you have followed his career. If there is a really, really big game, Tatum is usually going to deliver a really, really big performance. His track record for stepping up in big moments is well documented.
It began during his senior year at Chaminade College Prep in the Class 5 state championship game in 2016. He scored 40 points in a victory over Springfield Kickapoo in the final game of his spectacular prep career.
Tatum averaged 16.8 points a game as a freshman at Duke University, but in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, he averaged 22 points in four games to lead the Blue Devils to the championship.
In his first four professional seasons with the Boston Celtics, Tatum has already played in three postseason Game 7s. In those win-or-go home games, he averaged 24 points and eight rebounds. The Celtics won of those three games.
As a rookie in 2018, he had 20 points and six rebounds in a Game 7 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals that same year, Tatum had 24 points and seven rebounds in a loss to the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Tatum’s famous dunk over James happened in the fourth quarter.
Two seasons later, Tatum and the Celtics faced the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He came up with his biggest performance yet with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a victory over the defending champions.
At 23, Tatum made his debut for the USA Olympic Men’s Basketball team, but he has been a veteran of the USA Basketball system since he was in high school. In helping the USA to the gold medal, he also made history in USA Basketball.
Tatum is the first male basketball player to earn gold medals at the Olympics, FIBA U19 World Championships, FIBA 17U World Championships and FIBA Americas U16 World Championships. He was an integral part of those championship teams. He should continue to be a mainstay for the men’s national team for years to come.
Napheesa Collier brings home gold
Congratulations to former Incarnate Word Academy basketball star Napheesa Collier on earning a gold medal as a member of the powerful USA Women’s Olympic basketball team. Team USA defeated host Japan to win its seventh consecutive gold medal.
Collier has experienced success at every level during her stellar basketball career. She led IWA to three state championships and was a key player in two NCAA national championships during her collegiate career at UConn. She was also the Rookie of the Year in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx in 2019.
Collier, 24, is the youngest member of the USA team and has been a major part of the USA Basketball program since high school. She has won gold medals at the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup, 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup, 2014 Youth Olympic Games and FIBA Americas Championships.