While most NBA stars keep their children far from the spotlit floor – or at least further than arm’s reach – Jayson “Deuce” Tatum Jr. can often be found in the front row at TD Garden.
Close enough that his father, Boston Celtics MVP candidate Jayson Tatum, can help the 5-year-old Deuce Tatum re-tie his shoe before an out-of-bounds play if he so chooses.
Just about every Celtics home game is “Bring Your Child to Work Day” for the Tatums.
Tatum shrugs. Sitting beside the courts at the team’s practice facility for a March 2023 conversation with Heavy Sports, he stretches out his legs, which are covered in bags of ice held together by ace bandages.
“It’s kind of what I’m used to,” he says. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, because, in the same light, I used to go to class with my mom all the time. So it just always seemed pretty normal to me, just different settings.”
Indeed, Tatum was attending college when he was a mere child – sort of.
“He probably doesn’t remember undergrad as much, but he remembers law school,” says his mom/force of nature Brandy Cole Barnes, who earned degrees in political science and communications before becoming a lawyer. “He was 10 or 11 then, and he hated it.”
“Yeah, because it was boring,” says Tatum, who spent the time doing homework or playing on his Game Boy, in a later talk. “I like to think that basketball games are a little more exciting than going to class with her.”
Jayson Tatum Learned Lessons From His Mom
When a St. Louis University Law School professor challenged Barnes regarding the child’s presence with her at the back of the lecture hall, the opening and closing argument was that she’d paid for the class and her son wasn’t a disruption to anyone. She won her first case. He stayed.
Now, as Jayson Tatum is making his case among the NBA elite, he can draw upon the lessons learned by seeing his mother press on through the challenges of an unexpected but cherished pregnancy. The situation helped mold both Barnes and Tatum.
In some ways, Deuce has helped guide his father through his early years in the league, as well. He’s not following what might be considered a traditional after-work lifestyle for one in his early 20s, let alone one for a professional basketball player.
“I’m blessed. He’s always been a homebody,” Barnes told Heavy Sports. “He’s an only child. He’s very comfortable being alone. He doesn’t always have to be in the mix. He’s low-key, and he likes it that way.”
The recently-turned-25 Tatum acknowledges those truths when relayed, but adds, “It definitely helped me out. You know, even if you are a low-key guy, if you turn 19 and you get millions of dollars and all these resources and opportunity, you can get curious. But (the birth of Jayson Tatum Jr.) came at the perfect time. It kept me grounded, kept me at home. I’ll always have that responsibility. It was an adjustment at first, but now it’s just part of my everyday life.”
And it’s more than that.
“It motivates me, because I understand that 24 hours of the day I’ve got somebody watching everything that I do,” Tatum said. “So it motivates me to make the right decisions to be the best role model essentially on and off the court. And it just puts things in perspective, right? You know, I could go out there and score 50, and all he wants to do is play when I get home. I could go out there and go 4 for 20, and all he wants to do is play when I get home. So it’s kind of like I’m not Jayson Tatum when I get home, I’m just Daddy, regardless whatever happened at the game.”
As Barnes puts it, “It keeps him grounded, keeps things in perspective. You know, he’s had some highs and some lows, but at the end of the day, when he comes home, Deuce could care less.
“Given the nature of Jayson’s business, I think he tries to steal every moment with Deuce that he can. I know sometimes when he gets a late workout in, they go to the facility together, and Deuce really enjoys that,” she added. “You know, any chance he gets to be with dad. With the nature of the beast, the schedule, any time Jayson can fit in with Deuce, he’s going to make it happen.”
Jayson Tatum’s Mom Says She’s ‘Most Proud’ of Her Son’s Character & His Parenting of Deuce Tatum
There’s a different kind of look that appears on the face of Brandy Cole Barnes when she is discussing this side of her son. No question, she appreciates Jayson Tatum’s ascension on the court, but in the ways that are truly important, this says more.
“Absolutely,” she says. “That’s what I’m most proud of, the person that he is, the character and then as a father.”
Her role in that is pretty clear, the passing of the torch through generations. As she grew up with Jayson, so is he now maturing with Deuce. It’s a different kind of bond.
“That’s the benefit of having a child at 19, that he was just being born and I was just starting this new chapter in my life,” Tatum says. “And I really like the fact that he gets to see me play and see me in real time, instead of, you know, I could be at the end of my career and trying to tell him, like, ‘Yo, your dad used to be really good.’ Now he actually gets to see that, you know, his dad is really good.”
And maybe because of the timing, the Tatums can try to pull off what LeBron James and son Bronny are seeking to do soon, play in the NBA at the same time.
“He just turned 5, so, let’s see, 13 more years of this?” he says.
Better keep icing those knees, he is told.
“I want to play as long as I can, so, you know, we’ll see,” he replies.
Along the way, be assured that the father is setting guardrails for Deuce. With the recent release of Tatum’s signature Jordan Brand basketball shoe, should we be looking for the Deuce 1 anytime soon?
While he admits he’s happy to spoil his son, Tatum adds, “I tell him all the time, ‘I worked for this.’ You can’t give him everything. He’s got to work for some things.
“I’ve got to see if he’s going to be good or not.”
The night before, Barnes is smiling at the sneaker prospect and playing along.
“I know,” she says with a laugh. “I’m with you. Listen, we’ve got to open up the negotiations, open up the bidding table.”
Does Tatum know a good lawyer?