Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum's mom, Brandy Cole-Barnes, says she knew her son would make it big when he was in just fourth grade.
“I knew he was gifted — he would do things and make moves and that you just couldn’t teach,” Cole-Barnes tells Sheinelle Jones in the latest episode of “Through Mom’s Eyes,” a digital-exclusive series for TODAY. “It was like it was just innate in him.”
At 24 years old, 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 got pregnant with Tatum at a young age, and people around her told her she wouldn't amount to anything because of her pregnancy. But instead of letting the criticism get to her, Cole-Barnes used those comments as fuel to ensure she didn't become "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.
When she was raising her son, Cole-Barnes says she always prioritized her son's education over basketball. While he did not finish his college degree at Duke, instead opting to enter the draft, Cole-Barnes says her son knows it's her wish for him to return to school to get his degree.
She also notes that her son often points out that he is making more money than his mother, who has four degrees.
When raising Tatum, Cole-Barnes adds that she had to identify the line between pushing her son and letting him be a kid.
"We can’t want it more than they do. That’s the biggest thing," she says. "And I think sometimes we want to push them more. And so that was the line for me -- I would tell him, 'Listen, I will give you every opportunity, every resource, I’ll do whatever it takes, but you have to do your part.'"
Cole-Barnes reveals she used to text her son at halftime during NBA games because she felt he "needed a little fire up under him." But over time, she began to see how brutal social media was to her son, and instead pivoted toward giving him the nod of support he wouldn't always get from fans.
And now that Tatum himself is a parent to son Deuce, Cole-Barnes says it's "amazing" to watch him become a father.
"Deuce has just been a blessing all the way around," she says. "To get to see Jayson in a different light, you know, in a different capacity, and see that something that I never thought possible would bring him more joy than basketball -- I think Deuce puts everything in perspective for him."
She says that her grandson is starting to recognize that his father is famous and "a superstar."
Ultimately, Cole-Barnes' biggest piece of advice for other mothers is to have "unconditional love and support" for their children.
"The road to getting there is not easy, no matter where the destination is. But you will be amazed what young people are capable of doing when they know they have unwavering, unconditional love and support," she says.