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Ja Morant: The NBA’s Dark Matter

He pulls you in.

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New York Knicks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Dark matter is mysterious.

The definition of Dark Matter goes as followed - (Dark Matter) is a hypothetical form of matter thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe.

Also in the definition of Dark Matter, there is a reference alluding to gravitational effects which cannot be explained by currently theories of gravity.

Ja Morant is the dark matter of the Memphis Grizzlies and perhaps the entire NBA.

NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies have never in my existence been a “cool” franchise. Despite the 2010’s playoff runs with the ‘Core Four’ if you asked an average NBA fan, they’d tell you that this franchise was “meh.” At least, that’s what I got from plenty of people throughout my time covering the Grizzlies in the media.

You do what now? I’d get that question quite often, several times a week.

“I cover the Memphis Grizzlies for this website...” I’d respond.

Before when I’d explain what I did, 90% of the time, I’d get asked about if I had met anyone not in a Grizzly uniform.

“Have you seen LeBron James?”

“Yeah...”

“Oh! What about Kevin Durant?!” they’d ask.

“Yeah, but what do you think about Mike Conley? Marc Gasol? Zach Randolph? Tony Allen?”

“They are alright!”

Getty Images

Listen, no Grizzly ever has ever cracked the top 15 in jersey sales. That’s franchise history. In Morant’s second season, he cracked the top 15 in jersey sales. That study was calculated before last seasons NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. Now, if you go to the NBA.com website and look for NBA jerseys, Morant’s 12 uniform sits 8th place in terms of most popular.

I get asked several times a day about the Grizzlies and Ja Morant now.

Small Market Struggles:

Before this season, in a study done by Forbes Magazine, it calculated the NBA’s Most Valuable Teams ahead of the 2021-22 season. The New York Knicks ranked number one on that list at 5.8 billion in value with 71 million in operating income. A team that sits 12th in the Eastern Conference and is 3-7 in it’s last 10 games.

It gets better. A small market in the Milwaukee Bucks, whom built around their superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, ranks 17th on Forbes list. Coming off an NBA Championship, the Bucks value jumped 17% and totaled $1.9 billion with $11 million in operating income.

Antetokounmpo’s fourth season in the NBA (2016-17) the Bucks ranked 29th in the NBA in overall organization value. The Bucks went 40-42 during that 2016-17 season and finished 6th in the Eastern Conference. Over the last five seasons the Bucks have gained 233% in value. Statistically, Morant is arguably having a more polarizing and better statistical season than Antetokumpo’s fourth year as well.

Antetokounmpo and Morant have done something with their respective small market franchises...They made it fun to play in their cities.

Antetokounmpo is comparable to what Ja Morant is doing in Memphis with the Grizzlies small market. Coming into this season, the Grizzlies were ranked 30th in the NBA in value, with an estimated $1.5 billion in value with a 15% increase from the 2020-21 season. Along with $12 million in operating income, if the Grizzlies had stock, the time would be now to buy it up.

New York Knicks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

More player empowerment helps individual and organization growth:

Social media is king these days. If you’re an NBA fan, and love following your favorite athletes, you can see their opinions in the push of a button. Obviously, in some instances this can be a PR nightmare, but for Morant is shedding light on the Grizzlies franchise and his teammates.

Morant has a total of 7.3 million followers on his Twitter and Instagram combined. In a tweet that Morant sent out on January 26th of this year that caught some attention. “Shout out ESPN, man,” Morant tweeted following a 41 point, 8 assist, on 15/28 shooting including numerous highlights. ESPN did indeed miss out on Ja Morant’s sensational night.

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Morant has became a superstar overnight. Obviously the MVP conversation leap from year two to year three has been insane, but his social media following has gown as well. His footprint digitally has grown dramatically, dating back to his breakout season at Murray State. A human highlight reel, Morant is a humble superstar, which has created not only a national following from a fan perspective, but a strong culture in the 901.

“He’s reaching down and picking guys up across the board...two-way guys, guys that aren’t playing, guys that are playing,” Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane said as he discussed Morant’s humble leadership that has turned into the new Grizzlies culture.

Soon, perhaps to right the mistake Ja pointed out, ESPN will be holding a remote broadcast in Memphis on March 23rd (next Wednesday) when the Grizzlies host the Brooklyn Nets. ESPN hasn’t done something like this in years.

Despite dark matter being a theoretical idea, the majority of the scientific community accept dark matter’s existence and importance to the state of the universe. The same can be said of Ja Morant’s impact with the Grizzlies in Memphis.

And perhaps now more than ever, beyond.

For more Grizzlies talk, subscribe to the Grizzly Bear Blues podcast network on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and IHeart. Follow Grizzly Bear Blues on Twitter and Instagram.