Celtics star Jayson Tatum was shooting a commercial in Los Angeles this weekend, but he had a video call with his family in Boston to let them know that his massive contract extension had been finalized Sunday.
Tatum and his mother, Brandy Cole, had a brief toast, and Tatum’s 3-year-old son, Deuce, was happy but did not quite know what the fuss was about. But he caught on rather quickly.
“We were trying to get him to say congrats,” Cole said by phone Sunday night. “And I said, ‘Tell daddy, ‘Show me the money.’ And he was like ‘Show me the money!’”
Tatum and the Celtics have agreed to a five-year, $195 million designated rookie max extension. The contract will begin during the 2021-22 season and it includes a player option in the fifth and final year.
“When he’d talk about [the contract] it was never about the dollar amount,” Tatum’s mother said. “He wanted to be a max player because that signifies your level of talent and the caliber of player you are. I think that was always the priority for him, striving to be one of the best and to leave his mark in this league. So I think that’s always his focus. When you work like he does and have the passion for the game he does, the money will come.”
This deal was mostly a formality, as Tatum soared to the NBA’s upper echelon last season and then watched fellow players from his draft class De’Aaron Fox and Donovan Mitchell agree to their own max deals in recent days.
Tatum’s extension includes about $163 million in guaranteed salary as well as escalator clauses that will vault the figure to about $195 million if Tatum meets incentives. Rookie extensions can be for up to 25 percent of the salary cap, but Tatum will be eligible for 30 percent if he receives All-NBA honors or is named defensive player of the year this season.
In recent years the Celtics watched stars like Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and now Gordon Hayward, depart during free agency, but Tatum’s deal is the latest and loudest indicator that he is both this franchise’s present and future.
Cole said he has thought about being a Celtic for life.
“I think he would love the idea of being able to spend his entire career here if that meant putting banners up,” Cole said. “He wants to not just say that he played here his whole career, but that he brought the city of Boston a couple of banners and his number is retired. I’m certain he would love that.”
Tatum, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2017 draft, took the next step in his rapid ascension last year, averaging 23.4 points and 7 rebounds per game while connecting on 40.3 percent of his 3-pointers. He was named an All-Star for the first time. He went to another level in the playoffs, averaging 25.7 points and 10 rebounds while playing a league-leading 40.6 minutes per game.
Last year the Celtics agreed on a four-year, $115 million extension with Jaylen Brown, so their two future cornerstones are now locked in for years to come. Prior to Brown, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had not finalized a rookie extension since signing point guard Rajon Rondo to one in 2009. But over the 10 years that followed, he never had a pair of top-three picks, as Brown and Tatum were.
If Tatum, for some reason, had turned down this massive extension offer, he would have become a restricted free agent at season’s end. But that was never a consideration, as no other teams would have been permitted to offer the haul that Boston did.
The Celtics would have preferred to avoid giving Tatum a player option in the fifth year of the deal, in the 2025-26 season, but the superstars have some leverage in these situations. Mitchell, a fellow All-Star in Tatum’s draft class, received a player option in the fifth year of his extension, too.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.