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Jayson Tatum believes he can be the face of the NBA, but not without a championship

BOSTON -- He's played in just under 500 regular-season games and has played in 94 playoff games, reaching the conference finals four times and the NBA Finals once.

And a few weeks from now, he'll celebrate his 26th birthday.

For such a young player, Tatum has clearly accomplished quite a lot during his six-year NBA career. Because of that, Tatum was asked during All-Star weekend if he envisions himself as potentially taking the mantle as the "face of the NBA" when the likes of LeBron James (39 years old), Stephen Curry (35), and Kevin Durant (35) retire.

"Absolutely," Tatum answered without hesitation.

After praising the state of the NBA for having high-character and high-talent players across the league, Tatum specified what it will take for him to make that leap.

"But yeah, when LeBron retires, the face of the league ... that's tough," Tatum said. "But, we win a championship, I got something to say about it. I know that."

That comment gained some traction, and Tatum was once again asked about that exact topic by The Athletic's Jared Weiss, in a story that was published on Wednesday.

"I feel like it's mine to take," Tatum said when asked about becoming the face of the league. "I do feel like, if we win a championship, it would be more distinguished and clear. But I understand I'm in that short list for sure."  

As already stated, Tatum has collected some significant accolades in his still-young NBA career. Yet he also understands that in the NBA -- and especially in a championship-crazed city like Boston -- there's only one trophy that people really care about.

"I understand that, no matter what I do in the regular season, I'm at that point where people just judge me off whether I can win a championship," Tatum told Weiss. "I realize that, and it's like, all right, I just gotta do it."  

Tatum's certainly in position to make another run at that this coming spring. The Celtics entered the All-Star break with the best record in the NBA at 43-12, four games better than the West-leading Timberwolves and six games up on the second-seeded Cavs in the East. Barring injury to any key players, the Celtics will surely remain the betting favorites to actually complete the job in June and win a championship.

For now, Tatum and the Celtics have to get through their final 27 regular-season games. After that, a championship -- and, for Tatum, much more -- will be there for the taking.

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