Ja Morant is Ruining His Career

I am not a fan of Ja Morant. After a couple of years in the NBA, it became clear that, while very talented, he was an immature showboat who talked a big game despite not really accomplishing much. The Grizzlies, largely due to Ja and Dillon Brooks, have become the most hateable team in the league.

From Ja’s dancing on the court in the middle of a play during a playoff game, to his “I’m fine in the West” comment despite being eliminated in 6 games in the second round of last year’s playoffs by Golden State, to his increasingly concerning off-court behavior, a guy who was not long ago one of the most promising and marketable young stars is now seemingly deliberately destroying his public image in a bizarre and reckless effort to prove how hard he is.

At least that’s my guess, because I don’t know how else to explain what Ja Morant is doing lately.

He recently signed a contract extension worth $230 million with Memphis. He’s got a shoe deal, and he’s the front man now for Powerade.

Yet lately he seems more concerned with acting like a tough guy than anything else. Here are some recent headlines:

Pacers security believed the red laser coming from Morant’s vehicle was attached to a gun. In other words, after a heated confrontation during a game, Ja and several others rolled by the Pacers team bus and either pointed a gun with a laser on it at the Pacers, or they pointed a red laser that they wanted the Pacers to think was a gun.

Either shockingly reckless, or shockingly stupid.

And now for the latest:

What is going on with this dude?

I’m not going to say he’s an idiot, I would say he’s more immature than anything else. But that still doesn’t excuse the behavior we’ve seen out of him lately.

On Friday, the Grizzlies played the Nuggets in Denver. Denver won the game 113-97. Then, after the game, Morant apparently went out to a strip club in Denver, where he then went live on Instagram in the wee hours of the morning, at one point flashing a gun in front of the camera. And that was when he really crossed a line.

On Saturday, it was reported that he will be “away from the team” for at least two games to “get help,” whatever that means. His absence from the team now has no timetable–it’s at least two games, but it could be even more. On Sunday night, the Grizzlies sans-Ja played the Clippers but wound up blowing a big 4th quarter lead and losing the game. Now Ja will miss the Lakers game on Tuesday, and perhaps even more games than that.

The whole strip club episode struck me as more childish than anything, and in a way it almost made me feel bad for Ja. He now comes off as a wayward youth desperately seeking approval and acceptance. “Look at me, I’m at a strip club! Look at me, I have a gun!” It’s like he wants to show the world how cool he is, and in his mind, people will think he’s cool if he’s at a strip club, brandishing a gun.

It just felt very childish, the whole spectacle. Like a kid trying to show off his dad’s gun to his friends.

But still: the NBA does not want it star players out here projecting this kind of “strip clubs and guns” image. David Stern went to great lengths during the 2000s to clean up the league’s “thug/gangsta” image, and you know damn well the league is not going to tolerate Ja Morant undoing all that hard work. Adam Silver and the league owners do not want Ja Morant to bring the league negative attention and tarnish the league’s reputation, and so I think there’s a chance they come down pretty hard on Ja here–to not only nip this in the bud, but make an example out of him.

One of the central issues here is that Ja had his gun out in Denver, which means that he almost certainly brought it with him on the team plane as they traveled from Memphis to Denver, and this is something that is expressly against the rules: you are not allowed to bring guns on an NBA team plane, or into any NBA facility. Ja clearly broke that rule, it would appear.

Apparently it’s an automatic 50 game suspension if you bring a gun into a team facility or onto a team plane, and the NBA is trying to figure out if that was indeed the case with Ja. If he did have that gun on the team plane, I’m pretty sure he’s done for the year, no? There’s less than 20 games remaining in the regular season and the maximum number of playoff games a team can play is 28 (4 series that all go 7 games), so assuming regular season suspensions carry over into the playoffs (and I don’t see why they wouldn’t) Ja Morant has a real chance of not playing again this year.

I just don’t know what Ja is doing. For one thing, he comes from a two-parent household and grew up in Dalzell, South Carolina, a small town outside of Columbia (population 3,175, 61% white, for what it’s worth). he is not some dude who came from a broken home in the hood. I seriously doubt that this was how Ja was brought up. It feels more like this recent tendency towards violence, and his efforts to cultivate a tough guy image is a deliberate effort by him. Maybe he’s trying to prove something, I don’t know. But whatever his reason is, he’s doing it with a purpose.

Maybe he just thinks he’s untouchable and will never be held accountable for his actions.

Even still, why would he want to act like this? He’s rich, he’s made it in life, and he has so much to lose. He has a young daughter and by all accounts he’s very close with his family and has a great support system around him.

So I just don’t see why he’s trying to act like this. Why would you, as an NBA star, want to be getting into fights and flashing guns on IG live? It’s not a path that anyone should want to go down.

I am not a fan of Ja Morant. I haven’t liked him ever since he was dancing in the middle of a playoff game against the Warriors. Honestly, when I saw him doing that dance in the middle of a game, my thought was, “Fuck this guy, and fuck the Grizzles. I hope Golden State humbles these clowns.”

But I don’t want to see Ja throw his career away like this. Wasted talent and opportunity is, as the old line from “A Bronx Tale” goes, the saddest thing in life. I don’t want to see a player as talented as Ja throw it all away out of some misguided and immature attempt to act hard. He’s behaving like an attention-seeking young child right now.

Paul Pierce is defending Ja by basically saying that he, Pierce, carried a gun around for safety after he got stabbed, but I think he’s completely missing the point:

I mean, Paul Pierce isn’t wrong at all.

But Paul Pierce also wasn’t waving a gun around on IG live and bringing guns on to the team plane. Paul Pierce also wasn’t beating up 17 year olds and threatening mall security guards, or pointing gun lasers at an opposing team after a game.

The problem isn’t that Ja Morant owns a gun. Nobody cares about that. The problem is how he’s behaving with the gun–and how he’s behaving in general.

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