Can Jayson Tatum be the next face of NBA after LeBron retires?

Can Jayson Tatum be the next face of NBA after LeBron retires? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jayson Tatum knows there's one obstacle in his way as he looks to reach the next level of superstardom.

During NBA All-Star Weekend, Tatum was asked whether he believes he can be the next face of the league when LeBron James retires. The Boston Celtics star shared a well-thought-out, confident response while acknowledging the lack of a championship on his résumé.

“Absolutely,” Tatum said. “And I think the league is in a great place right now, the amount of high-character guys, the amount of talent throughout the NBA. The fact that LeBron, [Kevin Durant] and Steph [Curry] are still considered one of the best 10 players in the league right now at their age and how long they’ve been playing is incredible. As well as all the younger guys, whether it’s guys my age or the guys a little bit older, with [Nikola Jokic] and Giannis [Antetokounmpo], or guys younger than me.

“So I think the league is in a great place. When LeBron retires, the face of the league, that’s tough. But we win a championship, I’ve got something to say about it, I know that.”

One could argue Tatum is currently a top-five player in the NBA. He's the best player on the best team record-wise so far this season. But until the 25-year-old gets over that championship hurdle, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe agrees the "face of basketball" label will belong to someone else.

"I think Tatum has a chance. But like Tatum said, people are judging him based on the '22 Finals because he did not play well," Washburn said on Monday's episode of Arbella Early Edition. "They're judging him on, 'You've been to all these Eastern Conference finals, you've never won a championship. When are you and Jaylen (Brown) going to win a championship?'

"So he's right. To get the monkey off his back, he's going to have to win a title to be the face of the league because eventually, whenever that happens, LeBron is going to hand over the mantle. He's becoming like Tom Brady now."

Our Phil Perry made the case for why Tatum will make a strong case to be the face of the NBA if he can bring Banner 18 to Boston.

"The right answer is it should be Jayson Tatum," Perry said. "He's also in a great sports market with real championship, not only aspirations, but expectations even though they haven't won one in a long time. They have been that good and they should be winning and winning at a high rate for the next 10 years as long as this guy is on the team.

"Between his age, his ability to do everything right on the floor -- and off by the way, that's a huge component of this. And I think the market itself and the fact people care as much as they do here about this team I think allows Jayson Tatum to be the guy as long as he wins. And I loved his answer the other night because that is the key. He understands until he wins a championship, he's not going to be taken seriously as one of the game's truly elite."

Tatum is averaging 27.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game while shooting a career-best 47.5 percent from the floor through 52 games played this season. He and the C's will look to pick up where they left off when they return to action Thursday in Chicago.

You can watch the full "Early Edition" segment with Perry and Washburn below, or on YouTube: