Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum isn’t just one of the most popular athletes in New England. He has a global following, thanks in part to the NBA’s huge international reach, as well as Tatum’s winning personality and play. Unsurprisingly, the former Duke Blue Devil has plenty of fans in China.
China has long been a hotbed for NBA fandom. The league has invested heavily to curate and grow that market and China alone could represent $5 billion in value to the NBA. Anchoring those numbers sit fans just as passionate as you might find on Causeway Street or at the TD Garden. It’s common for members of the international media to visit Celtics games to report back to fans in China or elsewhere. Such was the case Wednesday night following Boston’s road win against the Philadelphia 76ers.
During a postgame press conference, a reporter explained to Jayson Tatum that he is called “cute rabbit” or “rex rabbit” in China by fans. The reporter estimated that 90% of people in China refer to him with these nicknames.
— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) November 16, 2023
“I’ll take it,” Tatum said with a grin in response. “I think I’m kind of handsome. I appreciate it.”
According to fans on social media, the origin of the nickname has to do with how Tatum’s name is translated. His name in Chinese becomes “塔图姆” or roughly “Ta Tu Mu” or “Tatumu.”
This is similar to “獭兔” or “Ta Tu,” which translates to rabbit. Specifically, it refers to rex rabbits, a particularly cute breed. (A quick Google search confirms Chinese websites covering the NBA refer to Tatum as “Cute Rabbit” or “Rex Rabbit” rather often.)
Like all sports nicknames, it doesn’t take long for fans to take a coincidence or a quip and run with it. Tatum has already earned several nicknames since joining the NBA in 2017. It’s unclear if “Cute Rabbit” will stick for English-speaking fans.
— The Celtics Wire (@TheCelticsWire) November 15, 2023
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