Memphis Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant was suspended from all team activities Sunday after he showed an apparent handgun in a social media live stream. The new video came more than two months after Morant displayed a gun in an Instagram live video taken at a Denver-area nightclub, prompting the NBA to suspend him for eight games for conduct detrimental to the league.
The new video appeared to show Morant and a friend listening to rap artist NBA YoungBoy while in a car. The camera pans toward Morant a few seconds into the video as he appears to be holding a gun next to his head before the camera quickly turns away.
The Grizzlies announced Morant’s suspension and said the organization would “have no further comment at this time.” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement, “We are aware of the social media post involving Ja Morant and are in the process of gathering more information.” Morant faces the possibility of another suspension or a fine from the league office.
Statement from the Memphis Grizzlies pic.twitter.com/XXLjr6QtlG— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) May 14, 2023
Morant’s latest video comes after the Grizzlies sought to take accountability and move forward after losing in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs late last month. Memphis entered that series as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, but injuries to Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke, coupled with the disruption caused by Morant’s suspension in March, contributed to the upset.
“I’ve just got to be better with my decision-making,” Morant acknowledged after the Grizzlies were eliminated. “That’s pretty much it. Off-the-court issues affected us as an organization, pretty much. Just [need] more discipline.”
During the series, which also featured extensive trash-talking by Dillon Brooks to LeBron James, Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins said his team was “far from where we need to be from a maturity standpoint.”
Then, during end-of-season interviews, Grizzlies General Manager Zach Kleiman said his organization was planning to take a “different approach” in its preparations for next season after weathering “some self-created distractions.” Jenkins added that “some things have to change” and that the Grizzlies needed to “walk the walk” rather than “talk the talk.”
In early March, a live stream on Instagram showed Morant at the Denver-area club after a Grizzlies loss, dancing and then briefly holding up a gun for the camera in video that was clipped and shared on other social media platforms.
Morant, 23, was suspended for eight games without pay for the incident and enrolled in a counseling program but was not charged with a crime after a police investigation. Conducting its own investigation, the NBA could not determine whether the gun belonged to Morant or whether he brought it into the club. He told police the gun was not his, but he has acknowledged in court filings owning at least one firearm.
Before he returned to the court, Morant met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio to discuss the video.
Silver deemed Morant’s behavior in the first video to be “irresponsible, reckless and potentially dangerous.” As he prepared to return from the suspension, Morant said he was “in a better space mentally” and committed to being a “better me” following a stint in a Florida counseling center.
Morant sought counseling, he told reporters, to help manage his stress, and he believed his “stress level had been becoming a problem” before the nightclub incident. “I had considered [seeking help], but I was back and forth,” he said. “I was pretty much afraid to leave the team. I felt that it was needed, and it helped me out a lot.”
Before returning to the court, Morant denied having “an alcohol problem,” said his stress management was an “ongoing process” and acknowledged attending less than two weeks of counseling “doesn’t mean I’m completely better.”
Major sponsors stood by Morant after the first incident as Nike proceeded to release the first edition of his signature sneaker. However, Morant’s first suspension cost him more than $668,000 in lost salary, and he missed out on approximately $39 million in additional salary because he wasn’t named to an all-NBA team this season.
Last summer, Morant signed a designated rookie max extension worth $192.2 million over five years, a number that could have increased to $231.4 million — taking up 30 percent of the Grizzlies’ salary cap — over the life of the deal had Morant made all-NBA for a second consecutive season. Morant, who averaged 26.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 8.1 assists while earning his second career all-star nod, wound up getting only 10 second-team votes and 14 third-team votes, not enough to make any of the three all-NBA teams.
The first video featuring Morant showing a gun came on the heels of a Washington Post story that detailed two incidents last year in which he and his friends were accused of violent and threatening behavior, including an allegation Morant flashed a gun at a teenager after a fight at his Memphis home.
In the first incident, described in a police report obtained by The Post, Morant and several friends arrived at a Memphis mall after his mother had a dispute with an employee at a Finish Line shoe store, according to the mall’s security director, who described the events to police. The dispute spilled into the parking lot, the security officer said, where someone in Morant’s group pushed the officer. No arrests were made, and no one was charged with a crime.
But four days later, Morant got into another altercation — this time with a teenager. Morant told police that the teenager, a local high school player, threw a ball at his head during a pickup basketball game, so he punched the boy in self-defense. In transcripts of police interviews, the boy told police that after the fight, as he was escorted off the property, Morant went into his home and emerged with a gun in the waistband of his pants, though he did not pull it.
The teenager involved in the pickup game dispute filed a lawsuit against Morant in January, and Morant countersued the teenager for slander, assault and battery in April.
The Athletic reported this year that members of the Indiana Pacers organization believed someone riding in a car with Morant had trained a gun on them, saying they saw a laser beam pointing from the car following a game. The NBA looked into that incident and said in a statement that the investigation “did not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon.”
Gus Garcia-Roberts and Molly Hensley-Clancy contributed to this report.