Celtics star Jayson Tatum admits it's 'surreal' being in NBA MVP conversation

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Jayson Tatum admits it's 'surreal' being in NBA MVP conversation originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It's been more than 35 years since a Boston Celtics player won the NBA's MVP award.

The most recent winner was Larry Bird in 1985-86. It was his third straight league MVP. This drought could end during the 2022-23 campaign, though.

Jayson Tatum, fresh off a first team All-NBA selection last season, has taken his talents to an even higher level. The 24-year-old forward is averaging 30.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, one block and one steal per game. The only player in the league who has scored more total points than Tatum is Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant.

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Tatum's individual success is driving team success, too. He scored 31 points in the Celtics' 116-110 road win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, giving Boston a league-best 20-5 record.

What does it mean to Tatum to be among the top candidates in the MVP debate?

"It's really like an honor. It's kinda surreal living out your dreams in reality, being in the conversation," Tatum told reporters after Monday's victory in Toronto. "You dream about it as a kid, and for people to acknowledge and recognize that, saying you're leading or in the running for MVP, I don't take that lightly. That's not something I brush over or get used to. I gotta pinch myself sometimes. I think it's cool, to be honest. I still feel like a kid sometimes doing what I love. To be mentioned with guys like Giannis and things like that, I think that's pretty cool.

"At the same, just trying to focus on game to game and being the best I can for the team -- 20-5 is big. That's how we wanted to start the season. Individually, all the guys, myself and JB, everybody is going to get the things that they deserve. As far as being in the MVP race, it's not something I'm used to. I get excited, I guess. It's something -- even though I've been in the league six years, I feel like a kid, thinking about the possibility of (winning MVP). There's a long way to go, but it's a surreal feeling being in that conversation."

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Oddsmakers like Tatum's chances of winning MVP. He's actually the betting favorite right now at +270 odds, barely ahead of Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo at +290 odds, via DraftKings Sportsbook.

If Tatum plays close to this level for the entire season and the Celtics remain the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, he'll absolutely be one of the top contenders for MVP.