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Jaylen Brown is the story here

Wed, June 19th, 2024

In partnership with

The Opening Tip

  • Shout out to Jaylen Brown

  • Payton Pritchard’s shot was the dagger

  • NBA Finals ratings vs. the NBA rights deal

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1. Jaylen Brown is the story here

The end-of-Game-5 scramble had a clear strategy: Find Jayson Tatum. We saw him as the clock wound down and with his son when the game ended. He got the postgame interview and the preloaded commercial.

This was all preordained in ESPN production meetings and Jordan Brand pitch meetings, and followed a similar mold: Find the best/most famous player and zero in on him.

But all the surface-level Tatum hoopla missed the true story, which is the reclamation and redemption of Finals MVP Jaylen Brown.

In Game 7 vs. the Heat last year, when Tatum got Hurt and Brown had eight turnovers in the loss, there was an avalanche of negativity about him, which was amplified when Boston gave him the biggest deal in NBA history. 

  • The far greater feeling was that Boston needed to trade Jaylen Brown or not give him all that money, and it lasted until the start of this postseason. Jaylen Brown as the new Tobias Harris was a closer reality to what’s unfolded over the last two months. 

  • But, legitimately, he was the Celtics’ most important player over their last two series. He was the MVP of both and the calming presence, which is kind of miraculous. 

His success is also a testament to how much Brown -- a much less gifted player than Tatum -- cares about getting better. His career has been a series of choppy, often nonlinear mini-leaps, from draft reach to bit player to MVP of the NBA Finals.

Both of these stars have arrived, but Tatum, basketball-wise, was born on second and dutifully strolled home. Brown bunted himself on and small-balled his way around the diamond.

[READ: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown put the drama to bed]

2. Daily GIF: The NBA’s first special teams player

In hindsight, the end-of-quarter-3-point-heave specialist hitting a halfcourt shot to go up 21 at home was probably the moment it was over. 

[WATCH: Payton Pritchard x Father Stretch My Hands]

3. Trivia

Jayson Tatum is the first NBA player to lead his team in points/rebounds/assists in the NBA Finals since…

Nikola Jokic

• LeBron James

• Hakeem Olajuwon

• Tim Duncan

Guess, click and see if you're right.

4. The NBA’s weird dichotomy of lower ratings and higher rights deals

This year’s NBA Finals, which had very little drama, averaged 11.31M viewers throughout its five games. That number is the lowest of the last three Finals, and part of an overall downward trend in viewership, which began in earnest in 2019 and accelerated when the pandemic hit.

Here’s the last 10 years in average NBA Finals viewership:

Why is this happening? The NFL is an ever-growing monolith. LeBron vs. Steph Curry was a needle-mover. Player empowerment/load management might have soured some fans.

Better question, though: Does it matter? Financially, the answer appears to be no. Any day now, the league is expected to announce a new TV rights deal which would pay the NBA $76B over 11 years, nearly tripling the current deal -- set to expire next year -- of $24B over 10 years. 

  • That $76B deal sets in motion a reality where player salaries eventually eclipse $100M annually.

  • And, unless something drastic happens to reverse a lack of TV interest, those ballooning salaries will take place under the backdrop of a league in cultural decline. 

Those two factors will combine to create thousands of think-pieces and some of the worst conservative cable TV segments you could ever think of.

Quick hits

  • Seven Black coaches have now won the NBA Finals. Four of them came with the Celtics: Joe Mazzulla, Doc Rivers, K.C Jones and Bill Russell. Ty Lue, Lenny Wilkens and Al Attles are the other three. 

  • The Pistons just fired Monty Williams after one season, which will cost them $65M. 

  • Never forget: 9 of 17 ESPN writers picked the Mavericks. 

  • Al Horford is not retiring. 

  • Just five minutes of media members doubting the Celtics.

  • Here’s Brad Stevens being about as emotional as he can be.

Reads + Pods

  • As the first Dominican NBA champion, Al Horford’s Celtics win kindles Caribbean pride locally [Boston Globe]

  • When my father talked about Larry Bird [Esquire]

  • Al Horford earned it [Defector]

That's the buzzer.
Thanks for reading the 391st edition of The Grip.