Ja Morant made news headlines, again, after a video of the Grizzlies' star holding a gun made its waves on social media. This is not an isolated incident. The NBA suspended Morant for eight games in March after another video was released of Morant holding a gun in a club while intoxicated. Along with this, a high school basketball prospect also sued Morant this past year after he alleged that Ja punched him in the head and threatened him with a gun during a pickup basketball game in Morant's backyard. While the Grizzlies' star player has already established himself as one of the best players in the NBA at only 23 years old, many are calling into question his future in the NBA amidst so much off-the-court controversy. With another gun incident, it may be time to ask the question: Is Ja Morant's NBA career over?
NBA Career Before First Incident
In only four years in the NBA, Ja Morant has already racked up a long list of accomplishments. Morant won the Rookie of the Year award in his first season, is a 2x All-Star, won the Most Improved Player Award in 2022, and made the All-NBA Second Team in 2022. Along with this, he has led the Memphis Grizzlies to back-to-back 50-win seasons in the past two years. Because of his early success, Morant inked a five-year, $193 million contract with the Grizzlies in July 2022.
Gun Incident In March 2023
Before March of this year, it seemed that the sky was the limit for Ja Morant. However, public opinion shifted after the release of a video showing Morant holding a gun in a nightclub. The NBA suspended Ja for eight games for "conduct detrimental to the league" and he also entered a counseling program. While members of the media were critical of Ja, it was only his first offense. The league and the Grizzlies seemed to offer him a second chance. At the time, he was a young player who made a mistake and took responsibility for his actions. Unfortunately, Morant may have already used his second chance.
Second Gun Incident In May And Public Opinion
Another video of Ja Morant holding a gun surfaced just this month. While public backlash was harsh the first time, Morant has faced exponentially greater scrutiny this time around. Analyst Shannon Sharpe stated that he was "mad" at Ja Morant and everyone who defended him the first time around. He also proclaimed that he believes Ja Morant should lose his endorsements and NBA contract. On his podcast, NBA player Patrick Beverley stated that he believes if this same incident would have happened twenty years ago, Ja Morant would have been out of the league.
Fat Joe also commented on the situation. He stated that it seemed like Ja wanted to get kicked out of the league. He also warned Morant about the people he surrounded himself with, as he believed they did not have his best interest at heart. Rapper Lil Wayne had a differing opinion on the All The Smoke Podcast. Wayne said, "He comes from a town of like 3,000 people. What y'all expect? Y'all gave him $200 million. I just said a town with 3,000 people. You expect him to be responsible? Nah, we're tripping then."
Will Ja Morant Be Out of the NBA?
Needless to say, opinions differ on the situation. Some see Ja's actions as enough for the NBA to kick him out. Others see a young man who has made a bad mistake. It seems that Ja's status as a top star is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he is almost too talented for the Grizzlies to let him go. On the other, his superstar status warrants more public responsibility. The important thing to note is that while Ja's actions were incredibly stupid, they were also not illegal, as J.J. Redick mentioned on ESPN.
Because there was no breach of law, it does not seem plausible that Ja Morant's NBA career is over. Public perception may shift and the NBA may suspend him for a very long time. However, his talent is almost too great for the Grizzlies to release him. In addition to this, the team is locked into a nearly $200 million contract for the next five years. Regardless if they release him or not, that money is guaranteed.
What The Future Holds For Ja Morant
While both the NBA and Memphis Grizzlies will hopefully take the necessary next steps to both punish Morant and get him any help he needs, it does not appear that Morant will be released. In addition, even if the Grizzlies did release him, there is a very high possibility that another team in the NBA would be willing to take a chance on Morant's talent alone. Ja is only 23 years old and still has his best basketball years ahead of him.
If circumstances were different, Ja Morant may be out of the NBA. A similar incident occurred in 2009 when Gilbert Arenas brought a gun into the Wizards locker room. Arenas was at the end of his contract with the team and past his prime, and yet he still played two more years in the NBA with the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies. While Morant made a really poor decision, his time in the NBA does not seem to be over yet.