Jayson Tatum explained to ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne how Marcus Smart's September 16 wedding in Newport Beach, California served as a goodbye to No. 36 from the Boston Celtics organization before the 2023-24 season.
"It was kind of like saying goodbye right before the season started," Tatum prefaced before saying, "It was really tough. Jaylen [Brown], Smart and I had been to four Conference Finals and one Finals. We just been through so much together. It was like the band was breaking up."
While speaking to me on January 22 during a promotional tour for the #RufflesRidgelineChallenge ahead of the 2024 Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, Tatum claimed that Smart was the team's most loved member.
“Man, you never can replace somebody like Smart," Tatum said. "He spent 9 years—10 years or so—in Boston, you know? He was my teammate for the first six. Without a doubt, he was the most loved Celtic on the team, right? His passion, his toughness, how hard he played night in and night out. He literally gave everything he had. And just his personality, man. I love Smart to death.
"Still a great friend of mine went to his wedding this summer. So just on that level, we've been through so much together as friends and teammates that, just on a personal level, you know, we for sure miss him, right? That's always tough when you just spend so much time with somebody and they get traded and move on. That’s never easy.”
As the Celtics continue winning, the need to process the loss of Smart takes on almost solely personal meaning to several of his now ex-teammates. Jrue Holiday and Derrick White inherited his on-court duties, while no one in his right mind would aim to fill the locker room void Smart left behind.
Marcus Smart a safe bet to return to Boston Celtics one day
The NBA is a business, but the product is a result of real men's hard work on the floor during games, and more notably, before they ever step foot on the court during practice runs.
While more money and opportunities can be found elsewhere, Smart will likely never be able to replace the camaraderie present in the Celtics locker room with most of the players he shared a roster with.
Don't be surprised when way down the line, he signs one more deal to finish his career where it started. The current Boston Celtics core loves him too much for that not to happen.