Markelle Fultz on Dr. J's Jayson Tatum dig: 'I proved why I should be the No. 1 pick'

Ben Rohrbach
Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum will forever be linked. (AP)
Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum will forever be linked. (AP)

Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving told ESPN on Thursday that budding Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum “probably should have been the first pick in the draft” over Sixers rookie Markelle Fultz, which didn’t seem like the biggest confidence boost for a player already shaky in that department.

So, Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Keith Pompey took that news to Fultz, who had this to say:


“I proved why I should be the No. 1 pick in college and they drafted me as the No. 1 pick,” Fultz told Pompey. “Now, I’m here. All I can do is improve and keep moving from here. That’s all it is. … It motivates me if anything.”

That’s not, like, the strongest statement I’ve ever heard from an NBA player, but it’s good to hear he’ll use this quote from Dr. J — a former special advisor to the 76ers’ ownership group — as fuel for his fire:

“Tatum probably should have been the first pick in the draft. He was there. I guess there was just, it was all about the fit. And we took Fultz, Philly took Fultz, and obviously Fultz’s whole rookie year — I think he’ll be a rookie again next year sorta like Simmons because of the injuries. But Tatum has been awesome, it just seems as though when you get a player who can raise the level of their game at playoff time, you’ve got somebody special.”

That, of course, came before Tatum scored a team-high 21 points as Boston erased a 22-point deficit to take a 2-0 series lead against Philadelphia, all while Fultz picked up his fourth straight playoff DNP.

Making matters worse for Fultz and Philly is the fact that they traded up into the No. 1 spot to take Fultz, sending the No. 3 pick and a future lottery pick back to the Celtics, who selected Tatum third. And, man, could the 76ers use a lengthy wing who can create for himself, shoot and play defense.

There is hope yet for Fultz, and we saw it with his triple-double against the Milwaukee Bucks in the regular-season finale. But that was one of few highlights for Fultz in a season marred by questions about whether his broken jump shot is the result of the shoulder soreness that altered his shooting mechanics after the draft or a mental block in the months since the soreness was “completely gone.”

Maybe just don’t invite Dr. J in for any motivational speeches.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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