There are a handful of professional athletes who grew up with other pro sports players.
Some, like Clayton Kershaw and Matt Stafford, parted ways in their athletic careers to pursue different sports. Others, like Joey Gallo and Bryce Harper, or Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, ended up in the same league together.
A basketball-hockey crossover is extremely uncommon, but thanks to a school in the St. Louis area, that’s the case with Matthew Tkachuk and Jayson Tatum.
Now, both are shining in the bright lights of their respective sports.
Tkachuk and the Panthers are facing the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final of the 2023 NHL playoffs. The Florida winger is in his first season in South Florida, coming over to the Panthers in an offseason trade with the Flames, and has played a critical role in the team’s success.
Tatum also finds himself in the conference finals, as he and the Celtics are playing the Miami Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. The Boston forward has been the face of the franchise for a number of seasons now, looking to collect his first NBA ring.
So how is it that this pair came to become friends? The Sporting News explains the connection between Tkachuk and Tatum.
Matthew Tkachuk-Jayson Tatum’s relationship
Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis has churned out a number of pro athletes. Former NHL goaltender Ben Bishop, Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Hurricanes center Paul Stastny all attended the school at some point.
Not only are Tkachuk and Tatum alums of the school, but the pair actually went there at the same time.
Don’t believe us? Let a 2013 version of Tatum show you, courtesy of a high school video project.
“The teachers here who had those guys, they chuckle a bit because they see them as just normal, goofy, little ninth graders,” Chaminade athletics director Tom Fernandez said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. “If you saw that video, it just captured them perfectly. They just were goofy kids. They are such babyfaces.”
Tkachuk attended the school from sixth to ninth grade, leaving after his freshman year to play in the USHL before he was selected No. 6 overall by the Flames in 2016. Tatum eventually ended up at Duke for a year before he was drafted No. 3 overall in 2017 by Boston.
According to classmates, it wasn’t obvious back then how far the pair would get in their professional sports careers. In a recent article by The Athletic, former classmate Graham Neimeyer said he personally didn’t see either athlete reaching the status they are at today. Lukas Radetic echoed the same statement.
“They were just normal dudes,” Radetic said. “We knew they were good, but we didn’t realize how cool it would be looking back on it.”
“Just watching it unfold has been incredible,” Neimeyer added.
In a recent interview with former NHLer Keith Yandle, Tkachuk explained how the pair were in the same gym class for three years. During those classes, Tkachuk saw how much better Tatum was than anyone else at basketball, and also how “brutal” the basketball player was when it came to hockey.
“I don’t know if (Tatum) called his shot, but he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to the NBA,'” Tkachuk said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I mean you’re way better than anyone I’ve ever seen.'”
Tatum was right in his assessment at the time. He has become one of the best players in the NBA, finishing in the top five of MVP voting this year. But even back then, Tkachuk said that Tatum was never conceited or overconfident.
“He was not a cocky guy or arrogant at all,” Tkachuk recalled. “Super confident. Great, great, great dude. He’s such a stud.”
The two remain connected thanks to the ties to Chaminade and St. Louis. Perhaps the next time they see each other, rings will be on both of their fingers.