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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Merkel

History does not bode well for Morant

Updated: May 22, 2023

Past controversies may point to short NBA career

Ja Morant Memphis Grizzlies
Photo by: All-Pro Reel., CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant is once again making headlines for flashing a gun on social media. NBA fans and analysts have speculated on what the fall out may look like because of his actions. However, the league has given no indication on what may come.

The Grizzlies came out with a statement Monday saying they had suspended the Grizzlies star “for all team activities, pending league review.”

As of May 17, no punishments had been doled out by the NBA either.

When looking at the history of the league, the recent controversies surrounding basketball’s brightest star are unprecedented.

Unlike many of his professional peers, who had garnered accolades well before they graduated high school, Morant did not gain a large following until his playing days at Murray State.

Morant’s time in college helped propel him to national stardom and a second overall selection in the NBA draft, behind only Zion Williamson.

As he solidified himself as a key member of the Grizzlies’ future, Morant not only made an impact on the court, but off it as well. The Sumter, South Carolina native had become the league’s brightest young star, and gained endorsements from brands like Nike and Powerade.

However, Morant now appears to be losing it all, with those companies now distancing themselves from the 23-year-old.

There are few controversies in the history of the NBA that are comparable to Morant’s. Social media, smart phones, and NBA YoungBoy make his situation extremely unique.

The most infamous incident involving NBA players and guns came in 2009, when Gilbert Arena’s and Javaris Crittenton were both suspended for the rest of the season after they pointed guns at each other in the Washington Wizards dressing room.

Gilbert Arenas Washington Wizards
Photo by: Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Arenas also admitted to storing firearms in his locker. They were later charged with misdemeanor weapons charges and sentenced to probation.

Crittenton never played in the league again and was later charged with manslaughter in 2015. Arenas returned to the NBA the next season, and played for 2 more years, at times in a limited role. Following his suspension, Arenas lost his nearly $40 million dollar endorsement deal with Adidas.

He later finished his playing days in China with the Shanghai Sharks.

While retired from professional basketball, Arenas has spent time with Complex Sports and currently is the host of the “No Chill Podcast”.

While Morant has not had any reported violence inside an NBA locker room, the incident involving an alleged “red beam” directed at the Pacer’s bus, from Morant’s car did raise suspicions that guns may have been present during the confrontation.

Still, an NBA investigation did not find enough evidence to prove there was a weapon pointed at the Pacers bus.

A Washington Post article from March reported that an alleged confrontation with a 17-year-old during a pick-up game led to a lawsuit, and that Morant and a group of people had allegedly intimidated a finish line employee.

So far, no charges or discipline from the league have come as a result of these incidents.

Only days after the article came out, Morant was seen flashing what appeared to be a gun on Instagram Live in a Denver strip club. After an NBA investigation, he was suspended for 8 games. Denver police also looked into the event but did not find enough evidence to bring charges.

The last NBA player to be suspended for possession of guns was Delonte West in 2009, after he was arrested while driving with guns in Maryland. West was suspended for 10 games by the league. 3 seasons later, he was out of the NBA.

West has batted mental illness for years since his retirement from professional basketball, even at times experiencing homelessness.

The longest suspension an NBA player has received for an Instagram post was in 2019, when Dion Waiters was sat for 6 games by his own team, the Miami Heat. Waiters called in sick to a game and later posting a photo of himself on a boat celebrating his birthday.

In February of that same season Waiters was moved by the Heat, to Memphis, where he was waived 3 days later. Less than a month later, he was signed by the Los Angeles Lakers.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the NBA finals to be at the Walt Disney World bubble, Waiters won his first career NBA championship with the Lakers. He has not played in the league since.

Based off the three past cases, Morant has the potential to face a lengthy suspension, despite no criminal charges being laid. The NBA’s track record for suspending players with guns does not bode well for him, even though Tennessee is an open carry state.

The motivation behind Morant’s behaviour has yet to be revealed, and skepticism into his past, personal life, and mental wellbeing will only yield more questions than answers.

While it is hard to find a pattern between Arenas, West, Waiters, and Morant’s actions, one unfortunate trend has remained true; all three former players did not last in the NBA very long after their controversies.

If Morant hopes to salvage his once blossoming career, he must ensure he does not follow in these retiree’s footsteps.

Morant still has the potential to be the NBA’s brightest star. If he simply stops throwing guns up on IG live, then Adam Silver and the league will continue to take care of him like they have for so many players in years past.


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