The Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics rivalry is the greatest in NBA history, but it's been lacking a spark over much of the past decade. Many thought that flame would be reignited when LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood, acting as the counterpart to Boston's Kyrie Irving. Things didn't quite shake out as expected -- the Lakers fell short of even reaching the playoffs in LeBron's debut season, while Irving ended up booking it to Brooklyn.
Well, the Lakers re-tooled over the offseason, and the Celtics replaced the departed Irving with Kemba Walker, while members of the young core improved their game over the offseason.
No one, however, took as big of strides as Jayson Tatum, and he is single-handedly bringing this rivalry back into the NBA's spotlight. Sunday night was living proof of that, as Tatum was virtually unstoppable, dropping a career-high 41 points, shooting 12-for-20 from the field and 4-for-7 from deep.
While he's struggled in past seasons against the Lakers, he's come into his stride in Year 3, dropping 27 points in their previous meeting and 41 on Sunday. The 21-year-old is blossoming before our very eyes, and with his development comes greater allure towards the once famed rivalry between Hollywood and Beantown.
The writing was on the wall during Sunday's showdown. The battle which ensued between he and LeBron James was encapsulating, and a preview of what could be a truly engrossing NBA Finals showdown. It's safe to say that matchup wouldn't disappoint. Granted, there are some obstacles standing in the way, but it's hard to envision a more intriguing championship crusade than the 35-year-old James taking on the 21-year-old Tatum.
With the tension between the two sides seemingly at its lowest point since 2010, when the Boston Three Party challenged Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol's Lakers, Tatum has the chance to steal the spotlight and re-spark a historic rivalry.
Tatum has all the makings of an NBA superstar, and looks well on his way to achieving that status. He plays with a certain fire that basketball fans simply can't look away from, boasting a near-poetic offensive game, silky smooth jump shot and excellent handles. Should he help the Celtics make a run through the East, he could be the focal point of a reinstated rivalry between two storied franchises.
The Lakers-Celtics lore dates all the way back to the 60s and has featured some of the biggest names in the game and most influential games of all time. NBA fans have been robbed of that type of greatness for too long, and Tatum can play a big part in bringing back the fire.