Ja Morant's Curse of the Powerful
An economic explanation of the coddling
If you’re a non-sports fan who, for some odd reason, has been watching the major sports television shows throughout 2023, you might be confused by the amount of emotion and focus spent on Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant. The people on TV seem overtly distraught about how Morant could be throwing away a great career, all because he wants to cosplay as a gun-brandishing outlaw.
More than that, the media pundits seem unusually invested. So many segments addressing this guy are literally, well, addressing this guy. Every observer would wish that a wayward talent straightens out and course-corrects his life, but this set goes beyond simply wanting the best outcome. They’re talking at Morant through the screen, begging him to wake up already, while there’s still time.
We see it here. And here. And here. Former player Jalen Rose didn’t address Morant directly through Camera 1, but he delivered a heartfelt speech about having been just like him. Stephen A. Smith, ESPN’s King of Talk, went a step further than simply addressing Ja, deciding to go up the family tree and plead with Ja’s father on TV. It’s all happened due to the following incidents, situations that perhaps don’t speak to the absolute entirety of Morant’s behind-scenes fall from grace.
According to The Athletic, in an incident that triggered an NBA investigation: “Acquaintances of Grizzlies star Ja Morant aggressively confronted members of the Pacers traveling party near the team’s bus in the loading area of FedExForum, and later someone in a slow-moving SUV — which Morant was riding in — trained a red laser on them.”
According to the Washington Post: “Morant repeatedly punched a teenage boy in the head during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s house, the boy told police.” The 17-year-old told detectives that “Morant went into his house and re-emerged with a gun visible in the waistband of his pants and his hand on the weapon.’” The WaPo report also includes an allegation that the superstar shoved and threatened a mall security guard last summer.
And finally, on the heels of these incidents generating scrutiny, Morant followed up a blowout loss in Denver by Instagramming himself, shirtless, waving a gun around a strip club in the early morning of March 4th.
That last incident is the one that precipitated Morant’s two-game (and counting) suspension by the Grizzlies, and potentially a longer league suspension.
A notable aspect here is that those dependent on Morant don’t seem publicly all that mad at these insane actions. The violent tendencies are instead met with modern therapeutic language. From Nike:
We appreciate Ja’s accountability and that he is taking the time to get the help he needs. We support his prioritization of his well-being.
From Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins:
It’s support and accountability. We’re in touch with him every single day. It’s staff, it’s teammates. He’s still a huge part of what we do. As I said the other day, we love him, we want what’s best for him, we support him.
When asked for specifics on Morant’s potential return, Jenkins scolded that it would be “disrespectful” to put a timetable on it.
Again, every reasonable person more or less shares the wish that Morant avoid self-destruction. Who’d want anything else? But there’s something revealed by all the indulgent emotionality. Fox Sports’ Nick Wright made an observation that gets at the reason, when articulating the sheer economic scale of what Morant’s potentially squandering: