Jayson Tatum Honors His Mother & Grandmother With “Greatest Gift”
Brandy Cole-Barnes & Jayson Tatum talk about their mother-son relationship, women’s empowerment and his “Greatest Gift” AJ35, MA2 and AJ1 colorways.
For Jayson Tatum, family comes first. While his basketball family includes teammates, fans and friends in St. Louis, Durham and Boston, as of 2019, it also includes the global Jordan Brand family. Jayson is the first to say that none of his success, so far, would have been possible without the women who raised him. And to show thanks, he decided to specifically honor his mother and grandmother during Women’s History Month with a special “Greatest Gift” colorway.
The colorway originated during Jordan Brand’s family-oriented Board of Governors gathering in 2019. During a work session, Jayson combined meaningful colors that would eventually make their way to an Air Jordan XXXV, Jordan MA2 and Air Jordan I. The process followed Jayson’s love of personal, dynamic PEs, which have so far referenced everything from his mother’s cooking to his son, Deuce.
Below, Jayson and his mother, Brandy Cole-Barnes, talk about their special bond, their favorite memories and why women are the “greatest gift.”
Jayson: Creating PEs is, by far, my favorite part of being with the Jordan Brand — just seeing my ideas come to life. At the time of coming up with the “Greatest Gift” concept and colorway, I had no idea that what I was creating would come to life. It happened at the Board of Governors gathering [in 2019]; we were in small groups, and we each had 20 minutes to create and present a shoe to the entire group. Whoever had the best one would win and see their shoe come to life. My inspiration came from the two most important women in my life, my mom and my grandma, who were on the trip with me. I immediately thought of them while I was creating it.
The inclusion of the Jordan MA2 brings the “Greatest Gift” color palette off-court, as well. What do you like about the MA2 as an everyday lifestyle shoe?
Jayson: My favorite thing about the MA2 is comfort. When you think about what you want in an everyday shoe, whether you’re going on a walk or traveling on the road, this shoe suits all of your needs.
Jayson Tatum at Board of Governors in 2019 (Photo by Cyril Masson)
What has your mother’s love and support meant to you over the years? How would you describe the special bond you have?
Jayson: My mom is my best friend, and the bond we have is inseparable. That comes from a multitude of things. We’ve been through a lot together, good and bad. No matter what, we’ve always made it through together, and that means the world to me. Having her unconditional love and support from the day I was born is the reason why I’m the man I am today. She deserves all of the credit.
My mom never missed a game until I got to the NBA. She made every little league game. Even when I played on the USA team, traveling the world in high school, she was there. She knew how important the game of basketball is to me, how serious I take it and how it’s my passion. She did everything in her power to support me and point me in the right direction. Being a kid from St. Louis, just having that support really can make the difference.
Why are women the “greatest gift,” and how do they keep the world going in ways that don’t always get acknowledged?
Jayson: Women are the greatest gift, because they are the strongest beings on this planet. Now that I’ve had a child, I’ve seen what women have to go through — how strong they have to be to give birth to a child and bring life on this earth. It’s nothing short of amazing. In so many ways, I feel that women are the “greatest gift.”
The Jordan MA2 “Greatest Gift”
Jordan Brand recently added five WNBA athletes to the family. Why is it important to lift up women in sports, in particular?
Jayson: I feel it’s important, because women in professional sports deserve equality and are role models, as well. I have a six-year-old sister, and I want her to see professional, successful women celebrated and promoted for their hard work — to give her something to aspire to be and to know how special she is.
What are some lessons from your mom and grandma that you want to pass on to Deuce?
Jayson: First and foremost, never let someone else define you. Regardless of circumstance, don’t let anyone determine what you can or can’t do. Be your own person and believe in your goals and dreams; really lock in and go after them. I remember when people would try to tell me that I needed a backup plan. I would get upset, because I was adamant about being who I am today. I couldn’t understand why other people felt it wasn’t an attainable goal. My mom told me to never let what other people say bother me. We believed, and it all worked out.
You’ve made it known that your mom makes the best tacos. What are some of your favorite family traditions, especially now that you’re a father, as well?
Jayson: My favorite family tradition is just spending time together, in general. The NBA season can be tough on you, physically and mentally. I look forward to downtime at home with my family. I know when I get home, I can always count on being with them to brighten my day.
What has it been like to see Jayson join the Jordan Brand family?
Brandy: It’s been amazing. I’m always grateful when his talent and greatness are acknowledged and appreciated. Jordan Brand is really family-oriented and has embraced us from the very beginning. I’ve also really enjoyed watching him have the opportunity to tap into his creative side, through designing PEs. He really enjoys it, and they are all authentic to him. He takes a lot of pride in his finished products.
How do your favorite colors show up in Jayson’s “Greatest Gift” colorway?
Brandy: That neon green is one of my all-time favorite shoe colors. I can’t even really explain it, but I own almost every shoe in that color. It doesn’t even have to be 100% neon green; if it has neon green accents, I’m copping it. The red means a lot to both of us. It symbolizes STL and our neighborhood at home. It shaped and molded us into the people we are today. The city still shows unwavering and unmatched support for us. The purple is definitely to honor my mom, that has always been her favorite color. The baby blue represents the most important person in the world to me, my son, Jayson. At one point, he was the youngest Jordan Brand athlete, so everyone nicknamed him “baby blue.”
Jayson Tatum at Board of Governors in 2019 (Photo by Cyril Masson)
What are some of your favorite memories with Jayson, and how has he been a gift to your life, as well?
Brandy: Wow, I have so many. I remember the uncontrollable joy and purpose I felt the day I had him. I knew I wanted to be the best version of me for him. I had so much pride in being a mom from the very beginning.
I remember watching him develop this amazing talent and love for the game by the second grade. By the fourth grade, I knew he was special and had a real chance. I remember taking him to college and law school with me. I remember sitting in the stands of his games with my books spread out; I always wanted to be present.
I remember him making up his mind very early on — he was going to be an NBA player, and he never wavered or had a plan B. I remember watching him make sacrifices and giving up a “normal childhood” to relentlessly pursue basketball.
I remember watching countless games. I never missed any, from little league through the NCAA tournament. I remember watching his lifelong dream come true on draft night. I remember watching him become a father, and even though he never imagined that he could love anything or anyone as much as basketball, he found that love in Deuce.
Detail of one of Jayson Tatum’s taco-themed PEs from 2020
Jayson has referenced your delicious tacos on multiple occasions, including through his PEs. What’s your secret recipe?
Brandy: Well now, that’s why they call it a secret! [Laughs] They are made with love.
What has it been like to see Jayson become a father and pass down lessons to Deuce?
Brandy: It’s the sweetest thing. Growing up, he would repeatedly say that he didn’t love anything more than basketball. I don’t think he could have ever imagined it. But I knew how I felt the day I had him, and I never doubted that he would be equally obsessed with his own.
From the moment Deuce was born, Jayson has been completely enamored with him. I’m not big on overly praising people for doing what they are supposed to do, like taking care of their kids, because that’s his responsibility. At the same time, as a 19-year-old, he exhibited an incredible level of maturity and responsibility as a young father.
Anyone who knows Jayson personally, or who knows anything about him, knows that Deuce is the most important person in his life — his number 1 priority, as it should be. Every time Jayson comes through the door, it’s hard to tell who is happier to see who! They both just instantly light up.
Jayson Tatum and his son, Deuce, at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game
The Air Jordan XXXV and Jordan MA2 “Greatest Gift” are available starting March 19 in North America and March 8 in the rest of the world from Jordan.com and select retailers. The Air Jordan I “Greatest Gift” is an exclusive friends & family pair that will not go to retail.