What’s going on with Ja Morant?

Ja Morant is among the brightest young stars in the NBA, with a new signature Nike shoe, a top-selling jersey, and the leader of the young and exciting Memphis Grizzlies. But recently Ja hasn’t just been in the news for his incredible displays of athleticism or impressive victories over the league’s best competition, he has become the talk of the NBA for his “bad boy” persona on the court and being involved in a series of incidents of reckless behavior off the court that have put him in the center of a lot of unnecessary controversy. 

Suspension Over, But Return Unclear

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has been suspended at least two games by the team after his Instagram Live video displayed what appeared to be a gun while at a nightclub early Saturday morning.

Morant began his Instagram Live session at 5:19 a.m. ET, hours after the Grizzlies’ 113-97 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The All-Star guard, who was shirtless and rapping along with the music, could be seen holding up a handgun with his left hand. Morant deactivated both his Instagram and Twitter accounts on Saturday afternoon.

The Grizzlies have now lost both games with Ja out of the lineup, and he still could miss more time as the NBA has launched an investigation into how Morant got the firearm to Denver. According to the NBA code of conduct, it is strictly prohibited to bring firearms to a team facility and it is suspected that Morant may have brought the gun on the team plane to Denver. If he did in fact bring the gun to the team facility and plane, while also breaking Colorado state rules, Morant could receive a significant punishment from the league and be could possibly receive a 50 game ban, leaving him out for the rest of the season. Although his two game suspension has just concluded, it is still unclear when he will return to the lineup.

Three Times Too Many

Morant’s Instagram Live video came in the wake of two other incidents involving Morant and a firearm that resulted in police reports but no arrests. In the first incident, just weeks after signing a 5 year, 193 Million dollar contract extension last summer, Morant hosted a pick-up game at his home that led to an altercation with a 17-year-old kid. According to police, the teenager threw a ball at Morant before he retaliated by repeatedly punching the teenager in the face, leaving him with a large knot on the side of his head. As the kid was leaving, Ja went into his home and grabbed a handgun, tucking into his waistband before returning outside to threaten the teenager with it. The altercation was reported to the police, but there was not enough evidence to proceed with the case. The incident only became public in January which started a shift in the public perception about the 23-year-old superstar.

The off-season altercation was just the start of reports of reckless behavior that came to light just a couple of months ago. On January 15th during a game against the Indiana Pacers, Morant was involved in a scuffle with Pacer’s guard Chris Duarte. During the altercation, a member of Morant’s entourage walked onto the court shouting expletives at a number of Pacers players before he was escorted out of the stadium. Later that night, the altercation allegedly continued outside the arena, where more members of Morant’s entourage confronted members of the Pacers near the team’s bus. After Morant got into an SUV, a red laser was pointed at members of the team from inside the car. Multiple reports believed it to be a gun, but it could not be corroborated that any individual threatened others with a weapon.

These incidents sparked national media attention with many NBA media members and former players expressing their concern for the people that Ja is surrounding himself with and the persona that he is portraying to the public.

From Fan Favorite to Villain

Ja and the Grizzlies got off to a hot start to begin the 2022-23 season and have cemented themselves as an elite team with both the stardom and supporting cast to compete for a title. Ja Morant was chosen as an All-Star starter, signed a new signature shoe deal with Nike, and led the Grizzlies to near the top of the table in the Western Conference. Their aggressive style of play and underdog mentality on the court once made them one of the most beloved up-and-coming teams in the NBA, but their recent on-court and off-court antics have quickly turned them into some of the biggest villains in the entire league.

The Grizzlies villain arc all began with a classic betrayal. During the 2020 season, the Grizzlies were part of a three-team swap that brought Andre Iguodala to Memphis. Iguodala is the gold standard for NBA glue guys, a former finals MVP who remains valuable as an unofficial player-coach and clutch contributor despite his age. But when he was unhappy filling that same role for a rebuilding Memphis squad and didn’t even bother showing up to their facility, team management agreed to let him go and Iguodala eventually ended up back on the championship contending Golden State Warriors. Naturally, the Grizzlies swiftly took offense at Iguodala’s stance, beating their chests when Memphis defied expectations and passed Golden State in the Western Conference standings. 

A season prior the Grizzlies had brought the Warriors’ season to an end in the league’s play-in round. Then the Warriors returned the favor in last year’s Western Conference semifinals. Their series featured numerous flagrant fouls, ejections, dirty plays, and plenty of taunting and trash talk. Even while Golden State blazed through the Grizzlies in the semi-final round to eventually be crowned NBA champions, the confidence of the Grizzlies never wavered. 

Earlier this season when asked to name the Western Conference teams posing an obstacle to Memphis’s title hopes this season, Morant smirked and said: “I’m fine in the West.” Many of his western conference foes have referenced this exact phrase as the start of the downfall of Ja’s public perception, claiming that Ja has gotten too cocky when considering Memphis has not made it past the second round of the playoffs since Morant has been on the team. In addition to his premature claim as the best in the west that rubbed the NBA crowd the wrong way, Morant’s recent off-court incidents involving reckless behavior with guns have raised concerns that Ja has taken his “bad boy” mentality too far.

Time to Clean Up His Act

Now after three incidents involving a gun in just a few months, concerns have rightfully arose about Morant’s lifestyle and character. Morant has the chance to be the face of the league for years to come, but in order to do so, it is critical that he represents the league well and is a positive influence for the young generation of NBA fans. As a 23-year-old superstar fresh off a multimillion dollar contract extension, it is easy to get caught up in the fame and make bad decisions off the court, but hopefully Ja can learn from this situation and change his ways. He certainly has the talent to be one of the brightest stars in the NBA but he must learn from his mistakes and shake off the hood mentality that he seems so proud to flaunt. 

Morant took full responsibility for his actions and will take some time away from the team to reflect. News regarding Ja’s reinstatement or further suspension should be coming soon.



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