I’m not here to psychoanalyze Ja Morant, ask if he has any gang affiliations, or question the influence that his parents are playing in his life. I will say, however, that if Morant was trying to emulate mid-2000s Michael Vick by having an illicit business on the side we probably would have heard about it by now. It is clear from that IG Live video from his own account of him partying shirtless and holding a gun that he completely ignored the fact he was hot last week.
Morant was as hot as Memphis at 3 p.m. in July. In early February The Athletic reported that a red laser shined out of a vehicle containing Morant and was trained on the Indiana Pacers’ bus after a game. A Washington Post report published on March 1 alleges that he showed a firearm to a 17-year-old that he and a friend had already beaten up.
The NBA investigated the incident with the laser and concluded there was no evidence that a weapon was aimed at the Pacers’ bus. Morant told the police that he struck the boy in self-defense, and his agent said in a statement on Wednesday that Morant did not have a firearm during the event in question. Morant will be away from the Memphis Grizzlies for at least two games.
Even if Morant is completely faultless in both of these incidents, the fact that he posted a video of himself holding a gun in public three days after the Washington Post report was both idiotic and irresponsible. Both traits are commonly found in people under 25 years old who walk around like they are bulletproof.
People are born into this world completely ignorant. At one point, we were all helpless and literally had to be spoon-fed. Then we grow a little bit older. We skinned our knees on concrete and began to ask questions. Then around 10 or 11 years old we actually believe that we know everything and that is when life gets really interesting. A person who can remember nothing that happened to them 10 years ago now believes that they hold all the answers to life’s questions.
As annoying as that trait is in young people, it is a natural one for them to possess. The world is a scary place. Bravado helps a person to get through a day in which they are largely powerless. Standing firm in their ignorance is, of course, how many of their mistakes are made. Those mistakes can result in detention, suspension, and sometimes even apprehension. Even if arrested, there is an entire juvenile court system because children who commit crimes should not be treated as adults.
In the workforce, people Morant’s age usually are entry-level employees. People in their early 20s that may have been standouts in college but still have a lot to learn about being a professional. They need room to not only learn from mistakes, but to be humbled out of their ignorant bravado and embrace every small step it takes to become a good worker.
Morant is already far past occupying an entry-level position. He was the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft at 20 years old. He won Rookie of the Year and has been filling highlight reels with his spectacular play ever since.
But playing in the NBA is not like other jobs. Outside of practice, games, and travel, players’ time is largely their own. A more typical life for a 23-year-old employee would be crashing hard in a tiny room after a 10-hour shift on a Tuesday. Morant is flying by chartered plane all over the country and staying in four-star hotels. If there is no game on the day he arrives in town, there is also probably no practice that day, which leaves him to his own devices.
In this fast life with fat paychecks, many young athletes have made awful decisions. Morant is not the first person living that lifestyle to make poor choices. However, what he does need to learn is that while spilled milk can be cleaned, blood stains don’t come out so easily.
He lives in a metropolitan area where local hip-hop star Young Dolph was murdered while buying cookies at a local shop in 2021. Takeoff — one of three members in the now-disbanded group Migos — was shot and killed in Houston at a private party in 2022. A study in the Journal of American Medical Association found that firearm fatality rates are at a 28-year high in America — and young Black men are victimized at the highest rate. Moreover, firearm fatality rates were most highly-concentrated in the southern states.
So to 23-year-old Ja Morant living in Tennessee — young man, your very existence puts you at real risk of a firearm ending your life. You showing the world that you party with one after all of the reporting that has come about you since the turn of the year will do the opposite of protecting you.
Morant is a young man who, like all young people, still has a lot to learn, but one lesson he had better take to heart during his suspension is that some mistakes are uncorrectable.