A lot of players have their own signature sneaker, but how many players can say that they have their own signature chip? Boston Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum is one of the few. Tatum recently scored a chip deal with Ruffles and as part of the deal, Tatum got his own flavor – Flamin' Hot BBQ. This new flavor is supposed to be reminiscent of Tatum's childhood in St. Louis, a town that embraces bold, spicy food. In addition to launching his own chip, Tatum is also in the midst of another All-Star campaign, and he's averaging a career-high in points (25.6) and assists (4.5) per game for the Celtics this season.
In order to celebrate its release, Tatum took a few minutes to talk with CBS Sports about his chip, his recovery from COVID-19, playing basketball in empty arenas, and what the Celtics need to do to turn their season around, among other things. Check out the full interview below.
CBS Sports: I want to start out by asking you about your new partnership with Ruffles. How did that come about, and why did you think that partnering with Ruffles was a good fit for you personally?
Jayson Tatum: A lot of different reasons. Obviously, I love chips. I like doing things that are organic to myself. I've been eating Ruffles ever since I was a kid. I remember last year when they did the partnership with [Los Angeles Lakers forward] Anthony Davis, and I thought that was really, really cool. And for me, I love doing things that [are organic]. I grew up going into stores, getting Ruffles chips. And now to have an opportunity to be a part of creating my own chip and seeing my face on something that I grew up eating. That's a surreal feeling because it is very genuine and organic to myself. So when the opportunity came, it was a no-brainer for me.
CBS: How much input did you have into the flavor [Flamin' Hot BBQ]? The press release said it's supposed to harken back to your childhood growing up in St. Louis and the flavors of that community.
Tatum: I love spicy food. Anything to make something spicy, or give it that extra kick, I'm all for it. Growing up in St. Louis, we're known for barbecue. I love barbecue, and I love highlighting things about my childhood and where I'm from. So, putting that combination together, [you get] Flamin' Hot BBQ. I thought it was pretty easy for us to figure that out.
CBS: I want to switch over to the court for a couple of minutes. How tough has it been to go from the bubble in Orlando to a short offseason to right back into action this season, especially since the Celtics were one of the last four teams in the bubble?
Tatum: It's definitely been a challenge. This has been a unique two seasons in a row. With everything going on in the world, and then, to kind of jump right back into it like we did, not having much of a rest, it's tough. Obviously, you love the game, you love doing what you do. So obviously you wanted to get back out there and play but [also] just understanding and knowing that you need rest. We wish we had longer to rest, but we're not the only team that was in a bubble. We're all kind of dealing with this as a league, but it's definitely a challenge, and we're still trying to figure it out.
CBS: Speaking of strange, how strange has it been to go through the normal travel schedule of the season, but not to have fans, or to have very few fans, in the arenas? What kind of impact, if any, has it had on your team?
Tatum: Nothing about this season has been normal. Especially dealing with games being postponed due to contact tracing, guys testing positive [for COVID-19]. I tested positive. So, it's been a lot of adjusting on the fly. Things come up that you really can't prepare for, and you just have to figure it out, whether it's with traveling, or sometimes the tests don't come back in time and you've got to cancel practice. So, I think from the start of the season, we've got more accustomed to it. But, you know, [it's] still very, very different.
CBS: You mentioned that you tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the season. I know a couple weeks ago you said that you were still dealing with some of the lingering effects in terms of your breathing when you're out on the court. How has the overall recovery process been for you, and how are you feeling these days?
Tatum: When I first found out, probably like most people, I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully for most of my quarantine, I didn't have any symptoms, I was fine. But coming back and playing I did notice that I was having some shortness of breath, that I was getting fatigued a lot quicker than normal. I talked to a bunch of different athletes from different sports that tested positive and they said that they dealt with the same thing. It's gotten better, but I think it just takes some time because this is just something new.
CBS: Earlier this week you were named an All-Star for the second straight season. What does it mean to you to be one of the 24 players in the league to earn All-Star status?
Tatum: I'm very, very grateful. It's not something that you take for granted. Like you said, it's only 24 players that make it, and it could change from year to year. So it's a great honor. I appreciate it. All-Star is going to look a little different this year with everything going on, but just to be named an All-Star again and being a part of the team, I'm grateful for it, and I'm excited.
CBS: Obviously, fans play a big role in picking the starters for the All-Star Game, but the league's coaches pick the reserves. In a way, is it more meaningful to get selected by the coaches as opposed to the fans, since they're the ones that truly know the game and see all of the players in the league on a nightly basis?
Tatum: I think it's both. But like you said, earning the respect of your peers, people that have to coach against you, and knowing that you have earned their respect [is meaningful]. Obviously, they watch the game and prepare for the game different than the average fan. So I think that's a pretty big deal, just knowing that the coaches think highly of me.
CBS: Thanks for taking some time to talk today, Jayson. We'll get you out of here on this. Obviously, the Celtics haven't had the best start to the season. What do you think you individually, and as a team, the Celtics need to do in the second half of the season to kind of right the ship, and put yourself in solid position for a playoff push?
Tatum: We need to get healthy. We've been dealing with injuries and things like that. The simple answer is we just need to be better. We know what we're capable of, and we just have to figure it out. From top to bottom, each guy just needs to be better.