Most vital for Ja Morant is to halt moving recklessly in his life. He recently appeared in court for an alleged fight with a 17-year-old. Both times the NBA has suspended him, it wanted him to stop making decisions that are capable of ruining and possibly ending his life. Despite all of that, when I watched him play in the second half on Tuesday night, and he hit that buzzer-beater to clinch a 115-113 victory for the Memphis Grizzlies over the New Orleans Pelicans, I was reminded of the selfish reasons I want Morant to get his act together.
I have no story about how I became an NBA fan because I have been watching the league for as long as I can remember. I firmly believe that NBA has the best product of all the professional sports leagues. As much as I enjoy football, the limited number of games increases the intensity and impact of every match. There is nothing I enjoy watching more on a weeknight in the winter than the NBA, even though the games by themselves have little impact on which team will be the eventual champions. The reason I feel that way is largely because of players like Morant.
In basketball, the stars have more of an impact on the game than in any other sport. They are involved in nearly every possession, and only nine other people are playing on a court. The sport allows the stars the most avenues to showcase their talents and the NBA greats do it the best.
Morant is the type of star that can dominate games both by land and by air. Of the 34 points that he scored, 27 of them came in the second half. He took the ball right at Jonas Valančiūnas or whoever was in his way from the Pelicans. Morant went around and through defenders while also drawing fouls — he went 9-10 from the free-throw line after halftime.
He scored the game-winning basket in a one-on-one matchup against Herb Jones — the Pelicans’ best defender. Jones is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan and is agile. Morant is 6-foot-2 and didn’t even need a pick to get by Jones. He hit him with a spin and buried a floater right in his face.
Those types of plays are why Nike gave him a signature shoe last season. He is one of the most exciting basketball players in the world. Simply being a top-five player in a league does not always translate into marketability. Charisma plus stats is what sells. Morant’s game is more than just excellent, it is an adrenaline rush.
It took Morant only one half to get his game back and for his head coach to bail on the original minutes plan. That 30 to 31-minute restriction swelled to a 35-minute night. Without Morant, the Grizzlies would not have been able to recover from that 24-point deficit. Their star gave a star effort as he thundered his way back into the league following a 25-game suspension.
Has he actually learned anything from his time off? Like he said in his press conference on Friday, in regards to him making the proper changes in his life, his “words probably won’t mean nothing to nobody.” Only him behaving like an adult, specifically more responsibly with firearms, will prove that he is indeed a changed man. And he absolutely needs to change. A person who carelessly waves guns around invites danger. All that can come from that is sadness.
I don’t want that for any young person. I truly want Morant to exercise more caution and better judgment for his own safety, as well as those around him. There are enough tragedies in this world.
His acting more like a responsible adult is the best thing he can do. Selfishly, though, as much as I want him to remain safe, I also want more nights of him doing what he did to the Pelicans on Tuesday.