Ja Morant’s got an obsession with guns — and he’s taking direct aim at his career.
The $193 million, 23-year-old hoops phenom is already being compared to the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, cashing in on lucrative deals with Nike and Powerade.
But like so many gifted-but-troubled athletes before him, Morant is barely clinging to slippery footholds on the mountain of success.
The Memphis Grizzlies has benched its star point guard for at least two games after he filmed himself flashing a handgun at a bar Saturday morning, spurring a police investigation.
But Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins hinted Sunday that Morant’s suspension could be longer.
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Jenkins told reporters before a game against the Clippers. “There’s no definitive timeline … It’s really not a timetable situation.”
The Instagram clip — which showed the two-time NBA All-Star shirtless in a club, grinning as he waved a pistol at the camera — is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Morant’s troubles.
Morant posted the video just days after the Washington Post published a bombshell report detailing two confrontations Morant had last summer: One with a 17-year-old basketball prospect at his Tennessee home and another with a security guard at a Memphis shopping mall.
When paired with other incidents — such as allegations that Morant’s entourage may have pointed a red laser that was possibly attached to a gun at members of the Indiana Pacers in February — a portrait begins to emerge of a young athlete who’s more than willing to squander the tremendous opportunities placed before him.
The mall squabble, which happened in July 2022 at a Finish Line shoe store, started when Morant’s mother started arguing with an employee, according to records obtained by the Washington Post.
She called Morant, who along with his entourage eventually confronted the director of mall security in the parking lot. They quarreled, and one of Morant’s friends allegedly pushed the guard in the head, the newspaper said.
As they were leaving, Morant allegedly told the others that he wanted to find out what time the guard got off work. The guard felt threatened and sought to file a police report, the Washington Post said.
Eventually the parties left the scene and no arrests were made.
Just four days later on July 26, Morant and a friend allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old male during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s brick mansion on the outskirts of Memphis, the newspaper said.
The teenager — who was reportedly enamored with Morant and told police he thought of the Grizzlies star as something of a mentor — was guarding Morant when things turned ugly.
It’s not clear what provoked the exchange. But Morant threw the ball hard at the boy when he was checking it in, the Washington Post said. The boy chucked it back equally as hard, but the ball went through Morant’s hands and hit him in the face, the boy later told police.
Morant allegedly put his chin on the youth’s shoulder, then asked his friend, “Do I do it to him?”
His friend said he should, the Washington Post said. So Morant allegedly punched the boy, connecting with his chin just as the friend attacked from the other side, catching the youth in a pincer of flying fists.
The pair continued the beatdown until they were pulled off. Morant then allegedly went into his house, got his gun, tucked it in his pants and walked outside. He didn’t pull the firearm out, the newspaper said. But he put his hand on it.
That’s when Tee Morant yelled at his point guard son to go back inside, the Washington Post said.
Morant later told the cops that he acted in self-defense because the boy had thrown the ball at him, then stepped forward and pulled his pants up. He interpreted this as a sign the kid wanted to brawl.
“Like all right, now I have to protect myself,” Morant told detectives, according to the Washington Post. “I swung first … The ball was the first swing to me.”
Allegations between the parties continued to fly as weeks went by — including a police report filed by the Morants that said the boy allegedly threatened to “come back and light this place up like fireworks.”
In September, the teen and his mother sued Morant and his friend, Davonte Pack. But the ongoing lawsuit, first reported by TMZ in January, was immediately sealed, according to reports.
One of Morant’s attorneys reportedly called the lawsuit a shakedown.
Rebecca Adelman, the family’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment from The Post on Monday.
But in a January statement published by WMC-TV Action News 5 in Memphis, Adelman’s firm called the fight a “tragic situation involving an assault and battery by two adults on a minor during a basketball game at the home of Mr. Morant.”
“Our client’s mental and physical well-being now and in his future are our priorities,” the statement said, adding that there would be no further comments.
At the same time, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office declared there was “not enough evidence to proceed with a case.”
Morant’s antics have deeply disappointed those closest to him, sources said, including his biggest defender, father Tee Morant, who was caught getting into it with Fox Sports host Shannon Sharpe at a January Lakers game.
“His father is really disappointed with the choices that his son has made lately, and the fact that his life choices led him to holding up a handgun is beyond stupid,” a source told The Post, adding that the elder Morant was “shocked” by the video.
“Making it into the NBA is already like drawing a lottery ticket, so for him to fumble the bag is even more disappointing,” the friend continued. “He was raised in a two-family household and attended private school. So being a thug and trying to portray that lifestyle is the farthest thing from the truth when it comes to Ja’s upbringing … he was not raised that way.”
Even if the legal cases peter out, Morant, who grew up in South Carolina, would be well-served to take advice from Shannon Sharpe, who has emerged as one of his fiercest critics.
“Ja, just move differently bruh, that’s the only advice,” Sharpe said on FS1. “I would never give you any advice about how to play basketball, but I would try to give you some advice about how to move. Let someone else’s lesson be your lesson.”
Additional reporting by Tashara Jones