Ja Morant is crying out for help and doesn’t even know it

OPINION: The Memphis Grizzlies star, who received a second suspension in two months for another gun incident, is no different from countless young Black men who act out in self-destructive ways, including violence.

Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies leaves the court after Game Six of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena on April 28, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

“I take full responsibility for my actions. I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies’ organization for letting you down. I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”

That’s a perfect statement Ja Morant released after flashing a gun on social media. Whoever wrote it, the message hits all the right notes: accountability, remorse, reflection and a commitment to improve. For the talented and troubled 23-year-old NBA star, the words sound genuine, heartfelt and sincere. Well done.

There’s only one problem; the statement was released two months ago

Now, Morant can dust it off for reuse because history has repeated itself. He flashed a gun during another Instagram Live session on Saturday, leading to yet another suspension

When my 23-year-old daughter told me Morant did it again, I didn’t believe her. What?! No way. He couldn’t possibly be that obtuse, that reckless, that unaware. He’s atop NBA marquees, blessed with major endorsements and a $193 million contract. Surely he wouldn’t risk it all anew by starring in an impromptu rap video.

Morant’s foolishness angered me. I was mad at him for making bad choices and I was mad at his childhood buddy Davonte Pack for being an accomplice. The latest incident aired on Pack’s IG account, and no good friend would record Morant in a compromising position. But when my anger subsided, I recognized Morant’s behavior for what it represented over the past year.

They’re signs of a young man crying out for help.

In that respect, Morant is no different from countless young Black men who act out in self-destructive ways, including violence. Teachers, counselors and social workers are well aware of the type, as are officers of the court. Concerned adults everywhere do their damnedest to be north stars, pointing youngsters in the right direction and keeping them outside the school-to-prison pipeline.  

Morant’s talent affords him more leeway than most. But too much slack can have a negative effect, enabling and encouraging continued bad behavior. It’s a thin line to negotiate and those in Morant’s orbit have tripped over it.

To be clear, he’s a grown-ass man and responsible for his own decisions. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten the right help in making them. 

Jamie Morant summoned her son and his entourage to a Memphis mall last summer, where they allegedly threatened a shoe salesman and a security guard. Pack, who lives in Morant’s mansion, reportedly joined the star in allegedly beating up a teenager during a pickup game days later. A couple of months later, Morant and others stormed a high school volleyball game after his sister fought another teenager. 

In January, Pack was escorted from his courtside seat and banned for a year after walking onto the court during a verbal confrontation with the Indiana Pacers, who later claimed a red laser was pointed at them in the parking lot. “The majority of things that happened in the past, I put myself in by even being there,” Morant said in an interview after his March suspension. “But all of the incidents you’ve seen recently, most of them is a lie. … None of them are my character.”

Unless our eyes are lying to us, he’s lying to himself. 

I hoped the light would come on two months ago. The first suspension, eight games, apparently wasn’t long enough. Maybe 41 games would do the trick.

He’s crying out for help and doesn’t even know it. His apologists aren’t helping matters, either; they’re more problem than solution. The counseling he received needs to be kicked up while he reconsiders alcohol’s role in his life. Auditing his inner circle would be wise, too. Anyone who’s co-signed his behavior needs to be kept at a distance — family included.

Aside from his fame and fortune. Morant’s troubles are familiar ones. We all know young people who have struggled to grow into responsible adulthood. He can blame the media for constantly highlighting his shortcoming, but he’s the one who constantly creates the opportunity. No matter what his parents or homeboys say, he’s brought the predicament on himself (with their help), and he’s the only one who can solve it.

“I’ve just got to be better with my decision-making,” he said after a 125-85 season-ending loss on April 28. “That’s pretty much it. Off-the-court issues affected us as an organization pretty much. Just [need] more discipline.”

And he needs more help achieving it. The clock is ticking.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.

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