Jayson Tatum cites tough love from his parents Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole-Barnes as the reason for his success as an athlete today.
Justin and Brandy welcomed Jayson on March 3, 1998, in St. Louis, when they were both in college. Though Justin and Brandy never lived together and eventually split, growing up, the Boston Celtics star spent time at his parents’ respective schools. He’d attend classes with his mom at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and he’d find himself in the locker room with his dad while he played basketball at Saint Louis University.
Jayson is a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy,” telling ESPN in November 2016 that Brandy is his “best friend.” He added, “I’m the biggest mama’s boy ever, and I’m proud to say it.”
The NBA star’s relationship with his father was slightly more complicated growing up. Primarily raised by his mother, he never lived with his father, who moved back to the U.S. from Europe after playing basketball professionally in the Netherlands when Jayson was 8. Despite being on the receiving end of tough criticism and coaching techniques from his father, Jayson credits his dad for helping push him further in his career.
“He saw the potential in me before I saw it in myself, so having him be that tough on me in basketball really you know, made me tougher on and off the court,” Jayson told KSDK.
Here is everything to know about Jayson Tatum’s parents, Justin Tatum and Brandy Cole-Barnes.
They were in college when Jayson was born
When Brandy graduated from high school at University City High, she was prepared to head off to the University of Tennessee with a full athletic scholarship after a four-year stint on the varsity volleyball team, as WCVB reported. She was also one of the top five students in her graduating class and the senior class president.
She learned she was pregnant with Jayson just weeks after she graduated from high school, according to ESPN. Rather than going away for school, she decided to go to college locally in St. Louis to earn a degree in political science and communications, working part-time jobs on the side to help pay for school and daycare.
“It was really tough, but it was what I felt like I had to do for both of us,” she told the outlet.
During her undergraduate years, Brandy would bring Jayson with her to class, a tradition she kept up throughout her higher education, including business school and law school. Jayson reflected on his time spent in classes with his mom in an essay he penned for The Players’ Tribune in April 2016. He wrote, “I remember sitting in the back of her classes, eating snacks or immersing myself in books or video games.”
“I kept quiet, listening in here and there — to me, most of her professors seemed boring and talked a lot,” he continued. “But I had my things to focus on, she had hers. It felt normal. So that’s what we did. When my mom couldn’t afford a babysitter and Grandma was working, we’d go to class together.”
At this time, Justin was attending Saint Louis University and playing basketball for the university. Jayson would get to spend time with his dad in the locker room and on the court, experiencing the pre-game speeches firsthand. However, he was mainly raised by his mom in his early years.
Justin was a basketball star
Jayson followed in his dad’s footsteps when it came to being a star in the NBA. Justin played basketball at Christian Brothers College high school with his son’s future godfather, former NBA star Larry Hughes. He went on to play basketball at Saint Louis University in college, where he balanced fatherhood and his burgeoning athletic career.
After he graduated from college, Justin went on to play basketball professionally in the Netherlands for three years, where Brandy would travel with Jayson so he could visit his father. Justin told Ladue News that it was “tough” being in the Netherlands for 10 months out of the year and away from his son. In his spare time while overseas, he’d help coach youth teams, a skillset he carried with him back to the U.S. as he transitioned into being a coach rather than a player.
After his professional career came to a close, he went on to become the assistant basketball coach at his alma mater, Christian Brothers College, for the 2006-2007, season before accepting a position at Soldan International Studies High School. Justin eventually returned to his alma mater as head coach, where he has been for over 10 consecutive seasons, according to his website. He has also hosted youth camps for over a decade to give kids a chance to learn basketball and forge new friendships.
Justin was Jayson’s coach, which affected their relationship
As he got older, Jayson’s father acted as his trainer and coach to help him achieve his dream of playing basketball professionally. The Celtics star has said that neither his mother nor his father “took it easy” and “were extremely tough” on him, especially his dad. Speaking to Graham Bensinger in October 2022, Jayson got candid about how his father’s coaching “put a strain” on their relationship.
“I feel like I missed out on a father-son relationship,” he said. “Me and my dad only ever went to games or practice and to get haircuts. We didn’t go to amusement parks. We didn’t go to picnics, or fishing, or really have father-son talks because it was just all basketball.”
Jayson said that his father would often swear at him and embarrass him in front of his teammates, including throwing the ball at him. He explained, “In his eyes, he wanted me to be the toughest. He wanted me to be the best.”
“And that was his way … like if he made me upset, I would play better and in a sense, I did,” he continued. “I would get so upset. I would get so angry that I would play better.”
Despite the difficult relationship he had with Justin growing up, Jayson cites the tough love he received from him as the reason for his success today. He explained, “He was so tough on me, which I appreciate, because I wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t.”
In the years since, Jayson has grown very close with his dad, and the father-son duo have mended their relationship.
Brandy is an attorney
Brandy holds several different degrees, including a law degree, which she earned in 2010. When she was in law school, Jayson would often be by her side and would flip through some of her textbooks as she studied.
While speaking to Bleacher Report, she recalled one moment where he declared that he didn’t want to read “these kind of books” and that he just wanted to play basketball, to which she’d tell him, “Well, you better work really hard.”
Justin has two other children
In addition to Jayson, Justin has two more children: a son, Jaycob, and a daughter, Kayden. Jaycob went to high school at his father’s alma mater, Christian Brothers College, where he played football. During his time on the team, they won two state championships. He now plays football at Western Illinois University, according to his father’s website.
Jayson celebrated Brandy’s marriage in 2016
In 2016, Brandy married her now-husband, Marcus “Jake” Barnes, who previously worked as a counselor at the Reebok All-American Camp, according to the Boston Herald. Jayson shared several photos from the Bahamas wedding on Instagram to celebrate the occasion. In one photo, he poses with the bride and groom as they match in all-white ensembles. “She’s married now! Happy for you Momma! Love ya both,” he wrote in the caption.
In another photo, he can be seen giving his mom a kiss on the cheek. He captioned the sweet shot: “Mommas boy till the end! I’m so happy for her❤️.”
Brandy ensured Jayson was a good student
Brandy always instilled the importance of maintaining good grades and getting an education in her son. Speaking to Sentinel & Enterprise, Brandy reflected on how she handled the balance between her son’s commitment to basketball, and to the classroom.
“One time I had to call his bluff, because I would always tell him that we don’t do C’s,” she said of her son. “It was B’s and above because I knew what he was capable of. He would always do fine, but one time he tried me, and I kept him home from a tournament. It about killed him. It was fourth or fifth grade. He almost lost it, but ever since then, he knew I meant business.”
Though he only attended Duke University for one year before he was drafted to the NBA, Brandy’s one wish is for Jayson to finish his degree.
“That’s a big thing for me. A lot of Duke kids come back and get their degree. I told him, It doesn’t matter how long it takes. He’s seen how hard I’ve worked,” Brandy said in her interview with ESPN.
Brandy knew Jayson was talented since elementary school
In an interview with Today, Brandy said she knew by the time Jayson was in fourth grade that he would make it to the NBA.
“I knew he was gifted — he would do things and make moves and that you just couldn’t teach,” she said. “It was like it was just innate in him.”
However, Brandy made sure to set boundaries with herself to ensure she was still pushing him to be his best while also allowing him to be a kid.
“We can’t want it more than they do. That’s the biggest thing,” she explained. “And I think sometimes we want to push them more. And so that was the line for me — I would tell him, ‘Listen, I will give you every opportunity, every resource, I’ll do whatever it takes, but you have to do your part.’ “
They are grandparents
Jayson is a proud father to son Jayson “Deuce” Christopher Tatum Jr. The NBA star and his ex-girlfriend, Toriah Lachell, welcomed Deuce on Dec. 6, 2017, when they were both 19 years old. His son’s birth came just six months after he was selected as the NBA’s third draft pick.
Brandy called her grandson a “blessing all the way around” during her conversation with Today, adding, “To get to see Jayson in a different light, you know, in a different capacity, and see that something that I never thought possible would bring him more joy than basketball — I think Deuce puts everything in perspective for him.”
The Boston Celtics star has also cited his own upbringing as his inspiration for how he parents his son. Speaking to Bensinger in October 2022, he said: “When I was growing up, even when I was a kid, I always saw my friends with their dad and how their relationship was bigger than basketball and sports and how they were closer.”
“I always said I wanted to have a kid,” he continued. “And I was like if I ever have a son, I’m going to make sure that we are best friends because I wanted what I didn’t have, in a sense.”
Justin supported Jayson at the 2023 All-Stars Game
Jayson was among the NBA stars selected for the 2023 All-Star Game, playing on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s winning team. He scored a record 55 points at the game and earned the Kobe Bryant Trophy when he was named MVP of the game, per the NBA.
Justin was present for the monumental moment, celebrating his son’s achievement on Instagram after the game. “Being able to see your kid live out their dream… Is priceless,” he wrote alongside a photo of him and Jayson holding the MVP award. “My boy @jaytatum0 is All-Star MVP.. 55 points most ever in a All-Star.. your a ⭐️ kid. LOVE Chump aka Big Deuce ❤️.”