But with all due respect to his basketball excellence, we’re here to talk about his hair game.
Tatum’s hairline — meticulously crafted by a gloved barber wielding an Andis Professional Styliner II trimmer like a paintbrush on a canvas — is glorious.
It’s become a popular discussion topic on social media whenever the Celtics play on national television.
It’s so admired that, within the Celtics’ locker room, it has been identified as a landmark for preservation.
“I think he has great hair. I think he gets his hair cut too much, my personal opinion,” forward Marcus Morris said. “When it comes to having a strong hairline, you can’t let people take it back. … I tell him all the time.”
Tatum, 20, remains undeterred by his veteran teammate.
“I know!” Tatum said of Morris’s crusade on behalf of his hairline. “But I got to look good. I told him I got to get a haircut.”
Thankfully for fans of fades, Tatum does his best to guard his hairline from trimmers with ill intentions. Though he lives and works in Boston, Tatum, a St. Louis native, tries to meet up with the barber from his home town who has been shaping him up for eight years.
“He’s very picky. I try to keep him as fresh as I can,” Julius Gutierrez said in a phone interview. “For him, it’s his hair and he values that. He wants [his hair] looking like draft day every day.”
While the topic of hairlines may seem frivolous to some, it matters to many men, said Gutierrez, 44, who has been cutting hair for more than half of his life.
“It’s the first thing people see, your smile and your hairline, especially in the urban community. It’s just something about it,” Gutierrez said. “You have a certain swag with it. … It just gives you this certain confidence.”
Tatum was thankful that Boston drew the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs — not only because the matchup ultimately favored the Celtics, who won in seven games, but because St. Louis is a breezy 1-hour 5-minute flight away. Gutierrez and his clippers made two trips to Milwaukee during the series.
“I usually fly him out when I’m on the road, somewhere close to St. Louis. He’ll cut me up,” Tatum said. “So people usually notice after he cuts my head.”
Although Tatum believes in barber fidelity, sometimes he gets impatient.
Take, for instance, this January 2015 tweet:
When Tatum’s eye starts wandering and Gutierrez, who owns Jules Unique Studios in St. Louis, can’t get to Boston or wherever the Celtics are playing, the young NBA player will go elsewhere.
Terry Rozier, another young Celtics guard having a breakthrough in these playoffs, said he understands.
“It’s like everything,” Rozier said before Game 1 against Cleveland. “You know you’re going to be on TV. You got to make sure that hairline is looking right, for sure.”
He then added: “I might go see my barber after this.”
Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson, another candidate for sharpest hairline in the NBA, said he gets it, too.
“Everybody wants to have that good hairline. It makes you look good. … I’m going to be young forever. Knock on wood,” said Clarkson, reaching down to tap the TD Garden court. “But my hairline is going to be like this forever, you feel me?”
Ah, so innocent. And yet so unaware that one day Father Time will come brandishing a pair of his own clippers. A hairline can recede with age, or because of genes, and even the best player of this generation isn’t safe from nature’s shears.
“LeBron!” one Celtics fan called out to the 33-year-old James during Cleveland’s Game 1 loss. “You’re fading like your hairline, boy!”
Morris has his own reasons for being so opinionated about Tatum’s hair. At 28, the burly forward who sometimes sports a headband is trying his best to prevent his own male-pattern balding. He lives by the same advice he shares with the rookie: Chill with the clippers and protect that hairline.
“I think a lot of the players in the NBA don’t understand that because they’re all about: ‘Let me have it cut because we’re playing on TV,’ ” Morris said, before chuckling. “My thing is, I’m trying to keep my hair for as long as possible. After I finish playing basketball, I still want to have good hair.”