Ja Morant’s return isn’t a redemption story, but his basketball brilliance is why NBA still embraces him

Ja Morant is very captivating both on and off the court, making it difficult to ignore how captivating he is.

The NBA enjoys creating its own mythology, but it’s even more enjoyable when players create the storyline. After missing more than 25% of the season, Morant was in control of the game and was facing down the barrel—of a defense, not anything else.

That’s where his innate ability comes out. It’s the reason people are concerned, regardless of whether he’s threatening mall staff, brandishing firearms, or reportedly abusing children in his garden.

People want to throw their arms around the happiness he radiated after hitting the game-winning shot in his season debut. He was the star of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 24-point comeback against the New Orleans Pelicans and scored 34 points, eight assists, and six rebounds on a night when he appeared to be running on fresh legs and occasionally out of oxygen.

Morant fell to the ground a few times before getting back up. After having trouble stopping the lane early on, he continued to assault it, and the Pelicans were unable to contain him as the game ended Tuesday night 115-113.
A pre-Christmas present, according to colleague Jaren Jackson Jr.

That is what I have been saying since November. And the way he put everything together was amazing to behold, Jackson said. It’s stunning to see. It’s absurd. Take a break, return, and win the away game. That is all that exists.

Morant had Meek Mill’s song “Respect the Game” blaring on the speakers in the locker room as Jackson was speaking. There’s not a really high threshold that Morant has to clear, even if it would be good to see him respect or value the game more.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning basket to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on Dec. 19, 2023. (Matthew Hinton/USA TODAY Sports)
It won’t be expected of him to become a shining example of morality or the ideal citizen. All he has to do is avoid the foolishness.

Yes, Tee, Morant’s father, was there at the game. Along with Davonte Pack, a close buddy who appeared to always be there for Morant when he got into trouble. He discussed how he needed his support system throughout the 25-game ban, and he said that the same individuals would be there for Morant no matter what.