By Eric Frazier
CHARLOTTE, N.C.– In the battle of who has the best skills in the NBA, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge with a three-pointer from beyond half court.
Tatum beat out Trae Young in the final round with that shot after Young started strong and got out to an early lead in the matchup. Tatum said he learned his lesson after previous rounds when he let his opponent shoot first so he could move closer to the basket.
“I didn’t want to give Trae a chance,” Tatum said. “I honestly didn’t know I was going to hit the shot, but I had to give myself a chance, throw it up there, and it worked out for the best.”
As for the half-court shot itself, Tatum said the shot wasn’t a heave and that he didn’t measure up the shot.
“I just seen he was getting close, about to shoot it,” Tatum said. “So, I thought I’d better at least — if I’m going to lose, I’d better at least get a shot attempt up. Let me throw this up really quick. I thought I’d at least knock his ball out of the way so I can get a chance to shoot it.”
Tatum said in a news conference earlier in the day that he felt confident about his chances to win the Skills Challenge but didn’t want to come in the contest too cocky.
“I definitely tried to win,” Tatum said. “I went out there. I didn’t want to go out there and be too cool. I wanted to leave All-Star with something, just give myself a chance to win. I just had a lot of fun.”
The Skills Challenge requires contestants to dribble through a slalom course, pass to a target, make a layup and finish with a three-pointer. The three-pointer proved to be the hardest obstacle for the competitors, as every player that jumped out to a lead during the competition struggled at the three-point line and allowed their competitors to come back and win their round.
In the second round, Nikola Jokić and Luka Dončić both had a good lead on Tatum and Young, respectively, but when they got to the three-point line at the end of the contest, they couldn’t put it in and Tatum and Young were able to make a comeback to advance to the finals.
Tatum said that he planed on giving his trophy to his mom for safekeeping because she has all his other sports accomplishments.
“My mom likes to steal all my trophies and past jerseys,” Tatum said. “She has all my Duke jerseys and state championships. So, I’ll let her get this one, too.”