We need to talk about Ja Morant and the importance of the moment he’s in.
Ja Morant is a lot of things.
He’s an underdog. Despite the state of South Carolina crawling with scouts due to Zion Williamson being one of the top players in the country out of high school, Ja Morant went from unevaluated and unranked by recruiting services, to the NCAA tournament and the second pick in the NBA draft in a matter of two and a half years.
For people that don’t understand how basketball recruiting and evaluating works at the youth level, there is almost no such thing as a player coming out of nowhere. Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen stories aren’t a thing in the NBA.
Ja Morant is a unicorn.
No one has ever averaged 20 points and 10 assists at the college level. Ja did it.
And it’s one thing to come into the league as an elite passer and scorer. It’s another thing entirely to come in with a 44-inch vertical and without an ounce of fear in your heart.
He deserved Rookie of the Year. He deserves his All-Star nods. He deserves his signature Nike. And whether he deserves it or not, he is the most culturally impactful athlete for black youth in this country since Allen Iverson.
The hair. The swag. The flash. The pride. Ja Morant isn’t just an athlete, he a movement.
And that’s why we need this man to figure his shit out. Because for some reason, every single generation thinks they can conquer the fast life like it’s an unathletic seven footer under the basket.
But the fast life is undefeated. And every generation has to sacrifice some of its young heroes to their vices for the rest of us to learn the lessons that keep us around for another 60 years.
Ja Morant doesn’t need to be one of those sacrifices. Kids today don’t need another cultural cautionary tale. They’ve had plenty. They need a redemption story.
They need someone to put the tequila away when they’d rather do the opposite.
They need someone to put the guns away when they’d rather do the opposite.
They need someone to swallow their pride and know their own value in moments of conflict instead of always having to prove it to people who don’t matter.
Anyone that escapes the clutches of the fast life in their 20’s does so out of good fortune. I’m fortunate, and I know a lot of other very fortunate people.
It’s a wild switch to go from aspiring to live like a king, to admiring the people with the means to live like a king, who choose a different path.
Ask any retired athlete and most will tell you that once they’ve fulfilled all their desires, one of the only desires they have left is do it all over again and replace indulgence with wisdom.
Ja Morant might be special, but he’s not so special that he won’t have to pay the piper. And God forbid that payment comes at the expense of yourself AND others, like it did for Henry Ruggs.
They say that every hero lives long enough to see themselves become the villain, and maybe that’s true, but the villain story doesn’t have to be Ja Morant’s last chapter. The redemption chapter is what I’m here for.
I just hope that’s what Ja Morant is here for as well.
Let that sink in.