Ja Morant made his return to the Memphis Grizzlies lineup on Monday Dec. 20, after missing 12 games with a knee injury. The Grizzlies lost 102-99 to the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder. Following the game Morant — who went 6-for-12 for 16 points and had eight assists — said some of the comments by Grizzlies’ fans hurt him in what should have been a happy moment.
“It’s frustrating for me, watching this team while I was out and the type of basketball they were playing,” Morant said. “We beat this team by 73, and then we lose the day I come back against this team. It’s frustrating. I was already in my head coming back out and trusting my knee after missing 12 games. Basketball is my escape, I feel at my best when I play. So, it’s really frustrating.
“Even during the game, I was running down the court and I heard some of my fans courtside tell me I need to sit back out. So, I just don’t understand what they wanted to get out of that. I feel like that just makes it worse.”
The Grizzlies went 10-2 during Morant’s absence and played their best ball of the season. They have climbed to fourth place in the Western Conference, and the team’s adjusted defensive rating has gone from 30th (worst in the league) to 19th. All while maintaining a top-six offense.
It’s easy to empathize with Morant. He started the season as a house on fire and there was All-Star talk. He seemingly made another offensive step forward and looked like the franchise star who was promised.
As a competitor you know he wanted to get out there with the team and share in the success of the team’s improved play. So it’s understandable that he’s a little miffed that his own fans wished he would sit out. Presumably because they believe the team would keep winning without him.
Ja, we feel you, man. But here’s the thing: Forget the fans.
Yes, we know there is this agreement between athletes and fans where athletes acknowledge there would be no game without the fans. Cool. We can continue along with that.
However you don’t have to let their opinions, even your fans, sway you.
Fan is short for fanatic. A fanatic is someone filled with excessive and single-minded zeal. A fanatic adheres to a strict doctrine and does not tolerate contrary ideas or opinions. In short, these are irrational people.
There is no point in trying to use reason, logic, or common sense to understand them.
You score 40 points one night in a win and they’ll love you. The next night you go 3-for-13, score 10 points and have five turnovers, they will curse you and your family. It’s crazy. But that’s what fanaticism is.
That is sports fandom to many.
Instead, stay locked in with your teammates. Away from the game, focus on your family and friends. The people who truly matter in your life.
“It’s a lot, man. I’m excited to be back and I’m thankful for my teammates because they have tried to keep my spirits up and tell me not to worry about what people say. But, it’s hard not to see that stuff.”
It is hard. Morant is only human. Of course this will get to him. But he should take a lesson from one of his NBA peers, LeBron James.
Before LeBron won his first title with the Miami Heat in 2012, he and the Heat lost in the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. Following that Game 6 loss, LeBron was asked if he’s bothered by people that want to see him fail.
LeBron responded with one of the great athlete answers of all time. Essentially saying win or lose, those who root for me to fail still have problems in their lives and his losing won’t change that. It was perfect.
That’s the reality, Ja. Adults paying money to come to an arena and heckle other adults is very strange. But it says more about them than it does you.
There is no need to waste any energy on that type of fandom.
More news from our partners: