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Jayson Tatum’s career season on Monday saw him transition to NBA and Boston Celtics legend.

With a 51-point effort against the Charlotte Hornets, Tatum passed to Larry Bird For most 50-point games in Celtics history. The score marked his fifth career 50-point game. Bird reached that mark four times, including scoring 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks in 1985.

Tatum hit a 3-pointer from the rim in the final minute of Boston’s 130-118 win.

The 3-pointer was his seventh of 12 attempts on the day (58.3%). He finished with 51 points, nine rebounds and five assists while shooting 15-of-23 from the floor. After the game, he honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a celebration of the civil rights icon.

“We are all blessed and honored to be able to play and represent Dr. King and his legacy, his family,” Tatum said. “In many ways, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do and pursue my dream without him.”

He was also quick to boast of his multiple 50-point performances.

“It’s been a long time since I scored 50 goals,” Tatum added. “So I needed that one.”

Jayson Tatum continues to write his name in the Celtics history books. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

What does Tatum’s 51-point game mean?

Tatum has gone from a perennial All-Star to a front-runner for MVP this season, his sixth in the NBA. After reaching the NBA Finals last season, he averaged a career-high 30.6 points and 8.2 rebounds while adding 4.3 assists and one steal per game. His Celtics are an NBA-best 33-12 and lead the second-place Brooklyn Nets by 4.5 games after Monday’s win.

The 50-point effort was Tatum’s first of the season after scoring 54 and 51 points last season and 50 points and a career-high 60 in 2020-21.

While the 24-year-old Tatum is on pace to break Bird’s mark for 50-point games while he remains a Celtic, he’s doing so in an era where 50-point games are far more common than when Bird played. In 1980-90, the NBA saw a total of 66 50-point performances. As the game has trended toward efficiency around the 3-pointer, 49 players have now scored 50-plus points since 2020.

For example, Tatum has long surpassed Bird’s career total of 649 3-pointers. With his seven on Monday, Tatum’s career total reached 969.

The modern game is vastly different from NBA basketball in the 1980s. And Tatum is on the leading edge of the game, developing as one of the league’s most productive scorers and players.


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