From the Basement | On Ja Morant’s recent suspension

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

Nathan Rich

On the morning of March 4, Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant openly displayed a gun on his Instagram Live while out at a nightclub in Colorado. This video shook the entire NBA landscape, given that Morant — the 23-year-old, high-flying sensation out of Murray State University — has led the Grizzlies to another successful season, proving himself to be one of the best young players in the league. 

While Morant is largely viewed as the great basketball talent that he is, he has also brought on his fair share of controversy. Just three days before Morant’s Instagram Live, an internet report surfaced of Morant punching and flashing a gun at a 17-year-old during a pickup game last summer. Four days before the incident, a security guard at the Memphis mall filed a police report claiming that Morant threatened him. 

After the Grizzlies played the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 29, Morant’s associate, who was in the car with him following the game, pointed a red laser at the Pacers team bus. The camel’s back finally broke with the infamous Instagram Live, which occurred right after his veteran teammate, Steven Adams, led a teamwide conversation on how the team needs to behave better on the road. It was pretty clear who he was referring to. 

With the Instagram Live came a multitude of questions as to how the NBA will handle the Morant situation, as well as its legal implications. Is it his gun? According to a recent interview with Jalen Rose, Morant denies it was. Did he bring it on the team plane? Will he be suspended for the rest of the season? 

After all of the speculation, the NBA decided on an eight game suspension, with Morant coming back on March 22 in their game against the Houston Rockets

The suspension marks a turning point in the NBA; current commissioner Adam Silver’s player-first approach has led to controversy over the league’s responses to these types of actions. 

In the past, specifically under the reign of previous commissioner David Stern, harsher penalties were given to players for less. One penalty that comes to mind is former Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony’s case when he faced a 15 game suspension in 2006 after a brawl ensued in a game against the New York Knicks. Anthony had to attend a one-on-one meeting with Stern following the suspension in which Stern claimed that Anthony’s suspension mainly occurred due to a build up of poor behavior off the court. 

When Anthony joined the “Million Dollaz Worth of Game” podcast, he described Stern as threatening “I know who you with. I know where you live at.” 

Since Silver’s player-first takeover, the NBA has stepped back on enforcement policies, focused more on mental health and allowed teams and players to seek help as they see fit. In Morant’s case, he joined a counseling program in Florida in order “to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”

With Morant returning this past week, it will be interesting to see whether he is able to move past the controversies that have followed him so far in his career. As one of the best young talents in the league on a championship contending team, Morant’s behavior is critical to both his team as well as the league’s future. 

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