ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith and former NBA player Jalen Rose gave their thoughts on the incidents surrounding Memphis Grizzlies stargazer Ja Morant on the network’s NBA coverage.
In recent days, Morant has been making headlines with rumors threats to the Indiana Pacers and a leaked police report detailing how the star threatened a security guard at a mall and then repeatedly punched a 17-year-old.
Since those were released, Morant found himself in hot water celebrating a teammate’s shot by pretending to shoot him.
It all came to a head early Saturday morning, when the Memphis security guard took to his Instagram Live at a nightclub and appeared to be flashing a gun. That led to the Grizzlies suspending him for at least two games, and Morant released a statement committing to “taking time off to get help.”
Smith and Rose both leaned on their experiences — with Smith covering troubled star Allen Iverson and Rose admitting to doing similar things in his life — as they begged Morant to seek reason and help.
Yes Morant appeared to be holding up a gun in an Instagram Live video in the wee hours of Saturday
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith (L) begged the Memphis Grizzlies observatory to “get it done,” while Jalen Rose (R) said fame could be a drug and believes Morant is now “on the way” is to recovery
“I want to make sure that Ja Morant, his family, his friends and everyone understands that all of us here are fans of his, and everything we say, myself, Wilbon, Jalen Rose, Woj, whoever, we’re saying it for the sake of his future,” Smith said.
“I covered Allen Iverson every day for the first 10 years of his career. And when I tell you that was a beat in itself… It was another level. But if you look at Ja Morant, the one thing I find incredibly alarming was that there were so many things Allen Iverson got punched for that had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with the company he kept.
“And because… off the street, very loyal, doesn’t sideline anyone. He takes a lot of hits. In this specific case, that is Yes on film. That’s Yes you see on the TMZ video.
He had no choice but to admit it, to be honest. And so I applaud him for embracing that. But if you take into account the other incidents… You are a superstar. You are 23 years old. You have a deal starting next year that could exceed $231 million over the next five years.
“And in this program on national television you are associated with the police. Think about that for a second and then ask yourself, is it really worth it? You know the answer to that, mate. It is not worth it.
“You are a superstar basketball player. You represent your organization. You represent your family. You represent your city. You have to take all that into account. It’s never over. And so often we don’t tell these players this.
“NBA has off-duty police officers. They have connections to the FBI. They have connections with everyone. The NBA knows what you’re doing.
“They know who you’re doing it with. They know where you are. They always know how you behave.’
Smith also tried to speak out to Morant’s friends and family, especially his father Tee.
Smith called them “good guys” with their “hearts in the right place” but added “you have to step forward and protect yourself and protect him by the way you behave.”
“That laser that allegedly pointed to the Indiana Pacers, you can’t let that sort of thing happen. You can’t have stuff. And last but not least, his father to Tee Morant. Nothing but love and respect for you, sir. You are his father, not his friend. His daddy.
“I’m not saying you can’t be friends, but you are his father. And so when we see things like this happening, you all get lumped together. Because it’s not just a 23-year-old Ja Morant who has to protect himself.
“It’s all of you who love him, who want to protect him, who wish the best for him. You have an obligation to see that he does it.’
Morant released a statement saying he will take some time off to get help
A police report on Morant (L) was published hours before the game against the Rockets
Morant played for the Grizzlies in Denver on Friday night, just hours before the IG Live clip
After Smith spoke, Rose talked about Morant through his experiences growing up in Detroit, and how he got out of trouble.
“I’m Ja Morant,” Rose began. You have the chance to watch me grow up for public consumption since 1991. I’ve been involved in drug robberies. I’ve survived assassination attempts.
“I’ve been that undisciplined young person trying to figure out how to become famous, how to be successful, and how to change the dynamics of my family.
“The one thing young people need to understand, and in the case of Ja Morant, when you first get called up, you go from a member of the family, a member of the crew, to the leader, to the breadwinner.
“And most of all, I hear a lot of people talking about his family and his crew. If you’re the leader, it’s up to you because you ultimately seek that lifestyle. You eventually want to be down. And what I had to learn is that people come into your life for four reasons: addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. You must choose wisely.
“He has way too much to lose. Trust me, I’ve been that young player who carried the gun… When you start to suffer, it can kill you. That’s… very different from what we’re talking about, a superstar athlete should put himself in position.
And like Stephen A said, that’s him on the video on his IG live. There is no one to persuade him. No one urges him to do that. That is a personal choice. And a lot of times, guys, like I said, fame can be a drug.
Morant has made headlines with Smith and Rose begging Morant to get help
“I don’t know what kind of pain he’s dealing with, what kind of fear he has, or what kinds of drugs he’s on. I am happy in his statement that he was the owner that I have to make changes for me. Because as a leader, as a breadwinner, you have the environment under control.
‘You select the people around you. And a lot of times, unfortunately… when we start getting fame, when we start getting money, we try to feel like we’re keeping it real.
‘But you made it. And once you’ve made it, it’s your job to uplift, to enlighten. And I’m glad this actually happened at this point in his life. It is a 23 year old young man. No one was arrested. No one was injured.
“And I hear too many stories about guns. Okay? Reportedly with the 17-year-old boy, reportedly with the Indiana Pacers staff. Last night on IG Live I saw the video like you guys did waving the gun. The next step towards that is now recovery. And I believe he is on that path.
“I’m glad he’s on that road. He will return and he will become a better person. And because all this is happening, he will now be able to live his full potential.”