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Celtics All-Star Embracing ‘Villain’ Role

Boston Celtics All-Stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics are rightly recognized as a heavyweight team.

Aside from going 64-18 in the 2023-24 regular season, they’re on their third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The last time the Celtics achieved this feat, they had made it to four straight NBA Finals while led by Larry Bird. It’s only fitting then that one of the Celtics’ current prizefighters is in the shadow of their face of the franchise. Just like with Kevin McHale forty years ago, the fanfare reserved for their franchise player eludes Jaylen Brown.

This isn’t to say Brown isn’t well-liked or respected. A bright-minded and thoughtful individual with a flourish for highlight reel dunks, Brown’s developmental arc should draw comparisons to peers like Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Players that began their careers as defensive specialists, these stars are now heralded for their go-to scoring ability. Brown, who averaged 6.6 points per game as a rookie and averaged a career-high 26.6 points per game, has developed as much as any player in recent memory.

Even that hasn’t been enough.

Jaylen Brown Embracing ‘Villain’ Role

At first, criticisms centered on Brown focused on his fit alongside Tatum. These conversations were sensible, as the duo passed the baton more than they played off each other. Frankly, they still play that way.

However, Brown’s tunnel vision and right-hand dominance were also put under the microscope.

Because Tatum had shown a knack for playmaking earlier in his career, there was less pressure on Brown to create for his teammates. Nonetheless, any offense is better when player’s are willing to pass up tough shots for better ones. With regard to Brown’s ball-handling, training with players like Hall of Fame wing Tracy McGrady in the offseason has gone a long way. Still, his left hand is notoriously weaker than his right, and it became a glaring issue in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

Though he’s worked hard on improving his ball-control and finishing ability with his off hand, NBA fans can have the memories of elephants.

Wisdom Comes With Age

Brown claims he isn’t bothered by the criticism.

It is what it is,” he says, per The Athletic’s Jay King. “I’ve accepted that.”

“Personally, the amount of criticism you get, no matter how well you do, it’s always going to be the criticism that comes first.

“I’ve struggled with that at times…,” the 27-year-old admits, “but as I get older… it is what it is.”

It may seem cynical but there’s really nothing he can do to change the reactions to his game. Some players, like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Anthony Edwards, largely repel negativity. Not only do observers enjoy watching them play, they’re fans of their personalities as well.

Others, like LeBron James and Zion Williamson, seem to be a magnet for it. Brown has fallen on this side of the spectrum. Like them, Brown isn’t appreciated for what he is, coming under fire for what he isn’t.

“….I put my best foot forward,” he muses. “I get better every year… add to winning… make my teammates around me better… [and] empower my teammates around me.”

“I celebrate the city as best I possibly can.”

Brown elaborates on his mindset about fan and media scrutiny, saying “whatever you do is going to be scrutinized… No matter how good you are, it’s never going to be enough or (bring) any praise…”

“It’s tough…,” the three-time All-Star considers. “You’ve gotta embrace that villain. And as I’m getting older I’m starting to embrace it more.”

“Embracing not giving a f*** whether they see (my value) or don’t see it, whether they appreciate it or don’t appreciate it. I’m focused on helping my team, helping my family, helping the city and I go from there.”

“It’s just a mindset where I don’t care if you boo or celebrate,” the Atlanta native explains. “I don’t allow the emotion of appreciation or the emotion of scrutiny to have any effect whatsoever.”

The Last Word on Jaylen Brown

Ultimately, being unable to go through normal human emotions like joy or frustration is tragic. On the one hand, being able to remain level- headed is important, especially in high pressure situations. However, playing in the NBA is and has been many people’s dream. Though Brown’s undoubtedly happy with his life, more consistent adulation may have made his career that much more enjoyable.


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