ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith and former NBA player Jalen Rose offered their thoughts on the incidents surrounding Memphis Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant on the network’s NBA coverage.
In recent days, Morant has been in the headlines with rumors of threats to the Indiana Pacers and a leaked police report detailing how the star threatened a security guard at a mall and then punched a 17-year-old repeatedly.
Since those were released, Morant found himself in hot water by celebrating a teammate’s shot by pretending to shoot at him.
It all came to a head early Saturday morning, when the Memphis guard took to his Instagram Live at a nightclub and appeared to flash a gun. That led to the Grizzlies suspending him for at least two games, and saw Morant release a statement committing to ‘taking time away to get help’.
Smith and Rose both leaned on their experiences – with Smith having covered troubled star Allen Iverson and Rose admitting to having done similar things in his life – when they pleaded with Morant to seek reason and help.
Ja Morant appeared to hold up a gun in an Instagram Live video in the early hours of Saturday
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith (L) implored Memphis Grizzlies star guard to ‘get it together’ while Jalen Rose (R) said fame could be a drug and believes Morant is now ‘on path’ to recovery
‘I want to make sure that Ja Morant, his family, his friends, and everybody understands that all of us up here are fans of his, and anything that we say, myself, Wilbon, Jalen Rose, Woj, anybody, we’re saying it in the best interest of his future,’ Smith said.
‘I covered Allen Iverson for the first 10 years of his career, every day. And when I tell you that was a beat in and of itself… It was a different level. But when you look at Ja Morant: the one thing that I find incredibly alarming, there was so much stuff that Allen Iverson took hits for that had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with the company he kept.
‘And because… from the streets, very loyal, ain’t diming out anybody. He take a lot of hits. In this particular instance, that’s Ja on film. That’s Ja that you see on the TMZ video.
‘He had no choice but to own that, to be honest with you. And so I applaud him for embracing that. But when you bring into account the other incidences… You are a superstar. You’re 23 years old. You got a deal that kicks in next year that could exceed $231million over the next five years.
‘And on this show on national television, there’s you associated with police. Think about that for a second and then ask yourself, is it really worth it? You know the answer to that, bro. It’s not worth it.
‘You’re a superstar basketball player. You represent your organization. You represent your family. You represent your city. You’ve got to be mindful of all of that. It’s never off. And so many times we don’t tell these players this.
‘NBA has off duty police officers. They’ve got connections with the FBI. They got connections with everybody. The NBA knows what you’re doing.
‘They know who you’re doing it with. They know where you are. They know how you’re conducting yourself at all times.’
Smith also tried to speak out to Morant’s friends and family, especially his father Tee.
Smith called them ‘good dudes’ with their ‘hearts in the right place,’ but added, ‘you got to step up and be protective of yourself and be protective of him by the way you conduct yourself.’
‘That laser that was allegedly pointing at the Indiana Pacers, you can’t have stuff like that coming on. You can’t have stuff. And last but not least, his dad to Tee Morant. Nothing but love and respect for you, sir. You are his daddy, not his friend. His daddy.
‘I’m not saying you can’t be friends, but you’re his father. And so when we see this kind of stuff going on, all of y’all get lumped in. Because it ain’t just a 23-year-old Ja Morant that needs to protect himself.
‘It’s all of you who love him, who want to protect him, who wishes for the best for him. You have an obligation to look out for him to do it.’
Morant released a statement saying he will be taking some time away to receive help
Hours before game against the Rockets, a police report regarding Morant (L) was publicized
Morant played for the Grizzlies on Friday night in Denver, just hours before the IG Live clip
After Smith spoke, Rose spoke about Morant through his experiences growing up in Detroit, and how he got out of trouble.
‘I am Ja Morant,’ Rose began. ‘You guys have got a chance to see me grow up for public consumption since 1991. I’ve been involved in drug raids. I’ve survived assassination attempts.
‘I’ve been that undisciplined young person that was trying to figure out how to be famous, how to be successful, and how to change the dynamics of my family.
‘The one thing that young people have to understand, and in Ja Morant’s case, when you first get drafted, you go from being a member of the family, a member of the crew, to being the leader, to being the breadwinner.
‘And first and foremost, I hear a lot of people talking about his family and his crew. When you the leader, it’s on you because you end up searching that lifestyle. You end up wanting to be down. And what I had to learn is that people come into your life for four reasons to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. You have to choose wisely.
‘He has way too much to lose. Trust me, I’ve been that young player carrying the gun… When you start waiving it, that could get you killed. That’s… an entirely different thing than we’re talking about a superstar athlete should be putting themselves in position.
‘And as Stephen A mentioned, that’s him on the video on his IG live. Ain’t nobody coaxing him. Ain’t nobody egging him on to do that. That’s a personal choice. And a lot of times, guys, as I mentioned, fame can be a drug.
Morant has been in the headlines with Smith and Rose pleading with Morant to seek help
‘I don’t know what type of pain that he deals with, and type of anxiety that he has, or what types of substances that he may be using. I’m glad in his statement that he owned that I need to make changes for me. Because as the leader, as the breadwinner, you control the environment.
‘The people that are around you, you select. And a lot of times, unfortunately… when we start to get fame, when we start to get money, then we try to feel like we keeping it real.
‘But you made it. And once you make it, your job is to uplift, to enlighten. And I’m glad this actually happened at this point of his life. He’s a 23 year old young man. Nobody got arrested. Nobody got injured.
‘And I’m hearing too many stories about Pistols. Okay? Allegedly with the 17-year-old kid, allegedly with the Indiana Pacers staff. Last night on IG Live, I saw the video like you guys did, brandishing the gun. The next step to that is now recovery. And I believe that he’s on that path.
‘I’m happy that he’s on that path. He’s going to return and he’s going to be a better person. And because of all of this taking place, he’s now going to be able to live his full potential.’