Nothing lasts forever.
Near the end of his life, the famed King Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die.” Even the most beautiful of things have their expiration date, no matter how much we may wish to hang on just a little while longer.
Yet what gives those things their beauty is their impermanence. A fitting example is a marriage. I’m not yet married, but I can imagine the indescribable joy you experience when you marry someone. I’ve also seen the terrible sadness there is when the day in which you lose that person finally comes. And between the beginning and end, there is hopefully the lasting fulfillment of a life well-lived and a relationship well-cherished.
When the Memphis Grizzlies selected Ja Morant with the second pick in the 2019 NBA draft, a seemingly perfect marriage between a struggling NBA franchise in a downtrodden blue-collar city and an overlooked budding superstar was formed. Ja was never supposed to be a superstar, if you paid attention to those saying such things, and Memphis was never supposed to have one; they were meant for each other from the beginning.
But make no mistake: There’s going to come a day when the marriage between Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies comes to an end. It might be when he retires after a lauded, wonderful career in Memphis. Or it could be when he decides that he no longer wants to “put a small city on the map” and elects to go play for another NBA team when he eventually enters unrestricted free agency; many superstars have done so, and Ja would not be the first or the last.
Of course, Memphians shouldn’t fret over whether Ja Morant will remain in a Grizzlies uniform over the course of his entire NBA career. Whether he does so or not, all things—even the most beautiful of things—have to come to an end, and the Grizzlies will have to move on without him at some point in the (hopefully) distant future.
The question is not if Ja Morant’s time in Memphis will ever come to an end. Rather, the proper question is how will Ja Morant himself remember his time in Memphis?
No matter how anyone may try to spin it, Memphis has not always treated its legends well (former Memphis Tigers great Larry Finch says hello). Last night was another unfortunate example as Morant made his long-waited return to the Grizzlies lineup only to be berated by several court-side Memphis fans when the team suffered a frustrating loss to Oklahoma City Thunder.
Ja Morant said there were Grizzlies fans telling him he should sit back out during the game today. He’s not sure why they said that, but was disappointed.— Drew Hill (@DrewHill_DM) December 21, 2021
Even for players as great as him, there is a place for criticism. I wrote a piece about his shooting struggles last year, and I discussed his overall ineptitude on defense earlier this season. But even taking into account how well the team has played without him, there’s no place for fans to be spouting utter nonsense—to his face no less—about how the Memphis Grizzlies are actually better without the most talented player in the history of the franchise.
Greatness is something that is to be cherished and celebrated for simply what it is, not something to be mocked and taunted because of what it’s not or hasn’t been yet (or lately due to injury).
Ja Morant still has flaws in his game, and while he does absolutely make the Grizzlies better, those flaws can occasionally prove to be problematic. Yet even so, he possesses the talent, swagger, and will to take them to heights they have never reached while representing the city of Memphis like his own family.
For the Memphis Grizzlies to have such a player is something that is worth being grateful for, for every Memphian. Truth be told, the majority of people around the country don’t have a positive perspective of Memphis. In fact, many have an outright (and incorrect) disdain for it. But in spite of this, Ja Morant is dead-set on helping make Memphis into something greater than it’s ever been.
Cherish that while you have it. Because the sun will one day set on the Ja Morant era in Memphis, and Memphis can only hope to again find such a talent that identifies with the city so intimately.