Jayson Tatum revealed it was a text from three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford that inspired him to push for 50 points during the Boston Celtics' 130-118 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday.
Tatum had 40 points with just over three minutes remaining in the contest, leading by seven, before he hit a pair of free throws and three triples, including the last one with 38 seconds left to eclipse the 50-point barrier.
He finished with 51 points on 15-of-23 shooting, going seven-of-12 from long range and a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line, becoming the Celtics' all-time leader in regular season 50-point games with his fifth.
He also has two 50-point games in the playoffs, giving him seven overall – the sixth-most ever before turning 25 years old, trailing only Hall-of-Famers Wilt Chamberlain (15), Michael Jordan (10), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry and LeBron James (eight).
Speaking after the win, Tatum told reporters a conversation earlier in the season with Crawford was the reason he would not settle in the 40s.
"Jamal texted me after [an earlier] game and he's like, 'If you’re ever that close to 50, nobody is going to remember the time and score, they're just going to report if you got 50 or not'," Tatum said.
"That’s what was going through my mind: Jamal telling me if you get that close to 50, go get it."
Head coach Joe Mazzulla made it clear Tatum's desire to dominate is the furthest thing from selfishness, and he is delivering within the confines of the Celtics' offensive structure.
"He makes me look like a better coach," he said. "He didn't settle for shots – he got catch-and-shoots, he got off-the-dribbles, he got layups.
"The other piece of that is the humility of our team to really work with him to get those 51 points."
Celtics guard Derrick White added: "He wants to be great and he takes that challenge each and every night. He’s seen a lot of defense during his time in the league and he is making the right read off of that."
Tatum's ability to make plays for his team-mates has been evident, averaging 5.3 assists during his eight games since the new year began, having never previously averaged more than 4.4 assists in any of his six seasons so far.