Ja Morant, the high-flying point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, is an ascending superstar. Since being drafted as the second overall pick in 2019, Morant has taken the league by storm, displaying incredible acrobatic ability resulting in sensational highlights and posterizing dunks. The Grizzlies have benefited greatly from his talent, as they are now in the midst of their third-consecutive winning season and are poised to make a deep playoff run.

But recent events have jeopardized Morant’s legacy and the Grizzlies’ title hopes.

Ceaseless Controversy

After a game in which Memphis played the Indiana Pacers earlier this season, Pacers staff members alleged they were threatened by a group of Ja Morant’s friends with a laser–pointer they feared was mounted on a gun. This incident occurred on board a team bus. Police investigated and proclaimed there was no evidence of a threat made against the Pacers’ staff.

Then Ja Morant was accused of physically assaulting and threatening a 17-year-old boy with a gun last summer due to a dispute during a pick-up basketball game. Also alleged against Morant were accusations that he threatened the head of security at a mall in Memphis. Both of these incidents were reported by The Washington Post, and their sources were Memphis police.

That was not the end of the controversy for Ja. On March 4, hours after the Grizzlies lost to the Denver Nuggets on the road, Morant allegedly displayed a gun during an Instagram Live video. Colorado Police confirmed they were investigating the incident, which, according to the report, took place at a strip club in Glendale, a neighborhood within Denver. Police later said no charges would be pressed against Morant due to there being no complaints against him and no gun was found at the scene.

That didn’t stop the NBA from launching their own investigation and the Memphis Grizzlies from handing him a suspension that has now been extended to at least four games. The NBA may bring down their own league suspension due to the possibility of Morant being armed during team plane rides and at team events. Such a suspension would be more stringent than the Grizzlies’.

A Career in Jeopardy

Morant grew up in Dalzell, South Carolina, but that is all I know about his upbringing. I do not know if he grew up around violence. I do not know if he has gang affiliations, as Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless questioned. I do not know why Morant has behaved in this way.

But I do know that many professional athletes have demons. When people become great at something, there is often some type of trauma from their past that motivates them. Pouring their heart and soul into a sport or artform or anything else is their way of quieting those demons. Perhaps that is how Morant has risen to such incredible basketball prowess– but it is now threatening his career.

Again, this is purely speculation. But those who grow up in problematic situations, no matter how successful they become in their chosen profession, can have difficulty shaking the behavior that their past instilled in them.

Morant needs to take a look at the things he values. He has so much right now that others would die for: incredible fame, unimaginable wealth, unprecedented talent, and– most importantly– people who care for him. His recent behavior is that of someone without those things. If he truly values them, he will change his ways and realize his potential. If not, he may be the greatest waste of talent the NBA has ever seen.