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The Morant Dilemma

I do not know Ja Morant. I know he went to Murray State which is in Kentucky, and I go to the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, which is also in Kentucky. That is as much of a connection as we have. But even with that little connection, I know that Ja Morant is clearly struggling with something. He has the wrong people around him, and he keeps putting himself in situations that could cost him tens of millions of dollars. Commissioner Adam Silver has suspended him indefinitely because of his latest slip-up, and it is said there will be a lengthy suspension to start next season. What could that number look like? Well, if you look at NBA history, there really is no consistent standard.

Two months ago, Ja Morant was suspended for eight games because he flashed a gun at a club during an Instagram live stream after a game in Denver. He took time away from the team, sought counseling, and said he learned from the incident. It appears that he did not learn a lot. On May 14th, he was seen in another Instagram live video brandishing a firearm and again finds himself under fire.

Over the last few months, Morant has consistently made poor choices that have landed him under public scrutiny. Last May, Morant appeared to threaten a Twitter user when he responded to them stating that it is “Free to see how hollows feel”, likely a reference to hollow-point bullets. Next during the offseason, Morant was involved in two separate incidents. The first incident occurred when he allegedly assaulted a mall security guard, and the second when he allegedly punched a teenager during a game of pickup basketball. Then in January of 2023, one of Ja Morant’s associates allegedly threatened Indiana Pacers staffers and pointed a red laser at them. The staffers claimed the laser was attached to a gun.

This brings us to the past two months. In March, Morant flashed a gun at a club in Denver while livestreaming on Instagram, and just this month, he appears to have done the same thing. After the first livestream incident, Morant was suspended by the Grizzlies and missed eight games. Following a very similar incident this week, we must wonder what the next suspension for Morant will look like.

It might be worth looking at similar offenses of past players to get an idea of what type of discipline Morant might be faced with. In 2007 Stephen Jackson was suspended for seven games for firing a gun five times into the air at a strip club in Indiana. He pleaded guilty to felony criminal recklessness and was suspended seven games by the league. In 2008 Sebastian Telfair was charged and convicted of criminal possession of a firearm and was sentenced to three years probation. The NBA felt that a three-game suspension was sufficient.

Everyone remembers the famous incident that happened in 2009 in the Wizards locker room. Gilbert Arenas and Jarvis Crittenton pointed guns at each other after a card game got out of control. Arenas got a fifty-game suspension and Crittenton received thirty-eight. The next time that the NBA suspended a player for gun-related reasons was in 2010 when Delonte West was suspended for ten games for illegally carrying and concealing a firearm. This brings us to Morant, receiving eight games.

Morant is now a repeat offender in the eyes of the NBA. However, he has not committed any crimes. Where will his suspension land? Who knows. If I were to guess based on the current facts and the previous suspensions, I’d say somewhere close to the thirty-eight games Jarvis Crittenton served. Whatever the length of the suspension, it needs to be long enough to send a message, and maybe this time Morant will hear it.

Wake Gardner is a rising 2L at the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. Someday he hopes to work for a sports team in Florida. He can be reached on Twitter @WakeGardner and by email at [email protected].


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