Ja Morant is for real

Published January 13, 2022, 1:30 PMYoyo Sarmenta

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant has taken a massive leap this season, putting the entire league on notice.

Could this be the season Ja Morant becomes an All-Star?

Be honest with yourself, how many times have you seen Ja Morant’s block? You know, the one that every time you watch produces a kind of mixed reaction of speechless reverence and primal screaming. The block that’ll leave your mouth agape and spewing expletives in mere seconds. 

Most likely you didn’t just view it once, not twice, maybe not even thrice. Chances are you’ve seen it at least 10 times from several different angles. It was a take-your-breath-away defensive sequence by a phenomenal player. 

One of the understated things about that play (and you can’t say enough about it) is that it happened on the same day as Klay Thompson’s return. It was #KlayDay and there were a ton of Klay highlights, including an in-traffic dunk, plus a lot of other memorable moments from a player who missed the last two seasons. Did you know that Klay’s return drew record numbers across the NBA’s social platforms and NBA TV? Everyone was glued and locked in for the return of the Splash Brothers. And yet, Ja Morant’s holy-moly-good-golly-miss-molly dunk also got significant buzz. 

That’s the magic of Morant, isn’t it? He demands our absolute attention. Through sheer athleticism, creativity, and an electrifying swagger that can power an entire city, he captures our imagination. Better yet, he defies it. It’s crazy to think that he’s capable of doing things we haven’t seen before throughout the NBA’s 75 years. Sure, we’ve seen a double-handed block before, but that must have been the most athletic one. We’ve seen countless dunks before, but Morant’s dunks have a little extra flair on them, right? 

Morant was recently named Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in a row. He is the only Grizzly ever to earn consecutive POW honors and the first player this season to do so. To top it all off, the Grizzlies have won a franchise-best 10 straight victories, winning 20 in their last 24 games overall. 

Now in his third season, the former Rookie of the Year is posting career-highs in points (24.9), shooting percentage (48.9 percent), rebounds (5.7), and steals (1.3). His 6.7 assists isn’t a personal best but just below last year’s average of 7.4. Probably the most eye-catching stat, however, is his 37.9 percent clip from deep – a significant rise from his 30.3 percentage last year. He’s expanding his game, shooting with more confidence whether they’re spot-up 3s or off the screen. We are witnessing the birth of an All-Star. 

It’s mind-boggling to think that Morant is only 22 and he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential. But the fun part about this phase of his career is that he is still constantly testing the limits of his abilities. You could feel it and sense it in every game. Every time he drives to the basket, you kind of see him calculating in his head and saying “I bet I can take off from that spot and dunk on that defender.” And if he doesn’t get the slam (he already has a highlight reel of almost-dunking-on-people), he gets back and tries another thing on the next play. It’s the audacity that he has - for a 6-foot-3 guard to attempt such gravity-defying plays. 

We are watching him develop into a complete player bit by bit. The 3-point shooting is coming around as mentioned earlier. He’s learning to shift gears on drives and when out on the break. He’s reading defenses with incredible precision and learning to make decisions on the fly. And on the defensive end, he’s no pushover either. 

The comparisons to Morant go from Derrick Rose, Baron Davis, Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, or any other athletic speedster you can think of. The exciting thing is that he can be either one of these guys or a combination of them. He can even be a guard-like Kevin Garnett on the offensive end: a bundle of uncontainable energy and force.

A game after snagging a bit of the spotlight away from Klay Day, Morant and the Grizzlies defeated the Warriors in Memphis. Morant even delivered a dagger and-1 to put the game away. He was so locked in that even stared down a bunch of kids wearing Warriors gear in the crowd (Kevin Garnett would do that right?).

It couldn’t be said enough: Morant demands our attention. And he rightfully deserves to be an All-Star. He even jolted pop superstar Justin Timberlake out of his social media hibernation into tweeting and encouraging his 63 million Twitter followers to vote him to the All-Star Game. Granted that he’s a Grizzlies minority owner, but the astounding thing about this is that he tweeted four times just to get it right. He initially didn’t realize that hashtags count as votes. So after putting out the voting link, quote tweeting the official handle of the ASG, and even posting the insane block, he finally got the #JaMorant in. That’s dedication. That’s Morant touching into another level of stardom. 

This is part of Morant’s career where everybody begins to gradually notice his magnetizing star power. He’s reaching new heights and taking everyone for the ride. You better hop on this train sooner than later.