Up five on the league leading Golden State Warriors with :31 seconds left in the game the Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant split a double team and attacked the rim for an angled layup. Score the basket, and one.
Morant walked into the first few rows behind the basket and yelled, “I’m here!” in celebration. There was a young fan in a Warriors’ Steph Curry jersey looking for a high five. But Morant wasn’t having it. Not in his house. Not in Memphis. The hottest team in the league, winners of 10 straight games, are a throwback to your dad’s NBA, and so is their budding superstar.
“He was disrespectful with that jersey on,” Morant said after the Grizzlies’ 116-108 win. “We Memphis. It looked like he wanted to cheer, but he had that jersey on. I apologize to him, but in that moment, bro, take that jersey off and then dap me up. Somebody find his information. I’ll send him one myself.”
Ja Morant on the kid with the Steph jersey 😂
"He was disrespectful with that jersey on. We in Memphis. It looked like he wanted to cheer but he had that jersey on. I apologized to him but in that moment, bro, take that jersey off and then dap me up." pic.twitter.com/t5NFzc2jcq
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 12, 2022
Curry is a three-time NBA champion, two-time league MVP, one of the greatest players of all-time and the most popular player in the league. It’s not uncommon to see Curry jerseys all over arenas not named the Chase Center, where the Warriors play their home games. He is often treated to “MVP” chants when he’s on the road. A testament to his greatness and popularity.
But the only MVP chants in Monday’s game were for the Morant, and he wants to keep it that way.
At 22 years old, Morant’s age defines him as new school. But he’s an old soul and plays the game with a swagger and confidence that “old head” NBA fans often say is missing from the game.
For years, NBA traditionalists have argued that players were too friendly and didn’t go at each other hard enough. Today’s players don’t make a big enough deal out of things former players would have seen as slights.
Morant embodies what a lot of former players and old-head fans love about competition and hoops. He has a healthy respect for all the great current players as evidenced by many of his tweets. But he doesn’t fear any of them.
"I don't fear nobody, dawg. I don't care if you 7'7" or whatever. I'm coming straight at you."
Ja Morant lettin em know 😤pic.twitter.com/So2o7pqDr3
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) January 5, 2022
Morant’s Grizzlies are the hottest team in the league, winners of 10 straight. They are tied record-wise with the Utah Jazz for the third spot in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies are ranked sixth in aNET, fourth in aORTG, and 12th in aDRTG.
The star point guard is a lock to make his first all-star appearance this season and is pushing his way into the MVP conversation.
The Grizzlies embody his attitude and play a brand of basketball that is refreshing. They get up into you on defense, force turnovers and get out in transition and score. While Morant is the ring leader, they are far from a solo act.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has a +3.4 EPM and is showing the two-way brilliance to which many believed he is capable. He is fifth in the league in blocked shots and is showcasing his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.
Desmond Bane is shooting 42.7 percent from three on seven attempts per game. Tyus Jones, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, De’Anthony Melton, Zaire Williams and John Konchar provide a ton of depth and have the Grizzlies believing they can make some noise in the playoffs.
“Number one, we’re one of the best teams in the league,” said Morant. “I feel like that’s number one. And number two, we’re showing how deep our roster is. No matter what’s thrown at us, we bounce back from it and come out and win games. We’ve got to keep it rolling, continue to play together, continue to battle.”
Never satisfied and hungry to prove themselves. That’s the Memphis Grizzlies, a throwback to your dad’s NBA.
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