In 2019, Ja Morant was scooped up by the Memphis Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft and wasted little time establishing himself as one of the most exciting young players in the league.
The high-flying guard secured Rookie of the Year honors thanks to his standout play during his inaugural season, and he continued to perform at a level where the Grizzlies decided he was worth the massive five-year extension he signed in the summer of 2022 that has the potential to be worth $213 million.
That deal was just the latest chapter in the Cinderella story of a player who attracted virtually no interest from college basketball programs coming out of high school before taking the world by storm during his time at Murray State.
Unfortunately, that tale has taken a turn for the worse thanks to what’s transpired over the course of the current NBA season, as Morant has been linked to a number of increasingly worrying incidents that have unfolded in recent months.
Over the weekend, the Grizzlies suspended Morant for a minimum of two games after he flashed a gun on Instagram Live.
That occurred a little over a month after members of his entourage were accused of aiming a red laser at the Pacers’ team bus during a postgame altercation in Memphis, which transpired about a week after Shannon Sharpe drew the ire of Morant and some of his teammates thanks to what unfolded during a game in Los Angeles in January.
There was another figure at the center of those last two incidents: Ja’s father Tee, who has been an incredibly visible (and equally vocal) supporter at the bulk of his son’s games; the elder Morant exchanged words with Sharpe and reportedly did the same with some Indiana players.
Tee has subsequently found himself coming under fire for his supposed role in Ja’s fall from grace, and while that may seem like a bit of a reach at first glance, it’s a bit hard to overlook his influence when you consider everything that’s led up to this point.
Does Tee Morant deserve some of the blame for Ja Morant’s off-the-court issues?
The fact that Ja has made it to the NBA isn’t a huge surprise when you consider his father was no slouch back in the day.
Tee played alongside Ray Allen while attending Hillcrest High School in Dalzell, South Carolina before hooping at Claflin University.
There was a chance he could have taken his talents to the pro level, but he opted to become a barber after his wife Jamie (who played basketball and softball in college) got pregnant with the future superstar who was born in the summer of 1999.
Tee played an instrumental role in his son’s development, and you could argue he’s attempted to live vicariously through Ja since he embarked on his NBA career.
While he hasn’t been shy about calling out his kid when he feels like he underperforms (he described his performance in a 2022 playoff series as “trash”), he’s also been the consummate hype man who seems to be relishing his time in the spotlight.
With that said, his newfound fame has also resulted in a fair amount of criticism from onlookers who’ve accused him of riding Ja’s coattails while needlessly inserting himself into the narrative (accusations he has publically denied).
It might be unfair to attack someone for a parenting style you personally don’t agree with, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of people from doing exactly that.
Many of those critics would tell you Tee has embraced the role of the “Cool Dad” at the expense of serving as the “father figure” who could potentially help Ja make some wiser decisions as opposed to arguably contributing to the problems that have plagued him.
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say Ja is a 23-year-old man who should theoretically be able to shoulder the bulk of the burden that comes with the profile he’s earned. With that said, it’s also not a huge reach to suggest he’s following in the footsteps of a man who seems to thrive on conflict and is never afraid to defend his (or his family’s) honor.
Unlike many of the talking heads and internet commentators who’ve made those claims, I’m personally going to shy away from making any sweeping judgments or assumptions about a somewhat public but nonetheless private relationship between a father and son I’ve never met.
With that said, this information may provide a bit more insight into the media circus that’s currently surrounding them.