NBA star Jayson Tatum’s mom, Brandy Cole-Barnes, on raising Som

Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum’s mother, Brandy Cole-Barnes, said she knew her son would make it big when he was just in the fourth grade.

“I knew he was gifted — he would do things and make moves, and you just couldn’t teach that,” Cole-Barnes tells Sheinelle Jones on the latest episode of Through Mom’s Eyes, a TODAY digital exclusive. “It was like it was just born in him.”

At 24, Tatum has led the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals, won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and is the youngest Celtics player to reach 5,000 career points.

Cole-Barnes shares that she became pregnant with Tatum at a young age and people around her told her that she didn’t mean anything because of her pregnancy. But rather than let the criticism get to him, Cole-Barnes used those comments as fuel to ensure it didn’t become “just another statistic.”

“I also wanted him to be proud of me, you know, I wanted him to look up and say, ‘That’s my mom,'” she says.

As she raised her son, Cole-Barnes said she always prioritized her son’s education over basketball. Although he did not complete his college degree at Duke, choosing instead to be drafted, Cole-Barnes says her son knows it is her desire to see him return to school to graduate.

She also notes that her son often points out that he makes more money than his mother, who has four degrees.

In raising Tatum, Cole-Barnes adds that she had to walk the line between pushing her son and letting it be a child.

“We can’t want it more than they do. That’s the biggest thing,” she says. “And I think sometimes we want to challenge them more. And that was the line for me — I’d say to him, ‘Listen, I’ll give you every opportunity, every resource, I’ll do whatever it takes, but you have to do your part.'”

Cole-Barnes reveals she texted her son at halftime during NBA games because she felt he “needed a little fire under him.” But over time, she began to see just how brutal social media was for her son, and instead turned to give him that nod of support he wouldn’t always get from fans.

And now that Tatum is a parent to son Deuce himself, Cole-Barnes says it’s “amazing” to see him become a dad.

“Deuce was just a blessing all around,” she says. “Seeing Jayson in a different light, you know, in a different capacity, and seeing that something I never thought possible would bring him more joy than basketball — I think Deuce puts everything into perspective for him.”

She says her grandson is beginning to realize that his father is famous and “a superstar.”

Ultimately, Cole-Barnes’ number one piece of advice for other mothers is to have “unconditional love and support” for their children.

“The way there is not easy, no matter where the goal is. But you’ll be amazed at what young people are capable of when they know they have unwavering, unconditional love and support,” she says.

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