Time become more valuable as you age - especially if you are a parent. At some point for all of us it overtakes the importance of money, or fame, or work recognition. Maybe it’s as you take your last breaths on this earth, after a life of striving to provide a better life for you and yours monetarily. Perhaps it is when you look up and the baby you once held in your arms is now dribbling a ball up and down a field or court at their highest speed. Regardless, when you have a child or children and are actively in their lives, a moment becomes more meaningful with them than it ever was without them. You wonder how you existed before they were there. And how you can make sure their lives are set up for success.
Watching Tee Morant from afar, learning the story of he and his son Ja and their family, as a fellow father I know the look in his eyes whenever he sees his son thriving. The platform is a bit different of course - Ja Morant is arguably the best point guard in the NBA right now, give or take a Steph Curry or Luka Doncic, and my children are learning their ABCs and how to read/walk. But we all started somewhere, and once upon a time there was a baby Ja progressing through all the various firsts - steps, words, etc. And there was his family - and his father - there with him.
Tee Morant was there as his son developed in to a basketball player, helping him travel and get to where he needed to be for practices and games. For countless hours, both in the line of sight of many and in the line of sight of only one, he watched and coached and encouraged - at times in his own unique way. Ja has said time and again that he dad was his first “hater”, calling out his poor play or areas for improvement far more critically than the worst talking head ever could. He even said his son played like “trash” as the Minnesota series ended - and Ja Morant likely agreed. This could be misinterpreted as someone being too harsh. But clearly, through his presence in Ja’s life, it is meant as motivation.
It comes from a place of love.
Tee Morant looking like "That's my young royal!" I love that shirt!! Salute my brother! pic.twitter.com/TsmmtnoWm7— Doc Holliday (@The_DocHolliday) May 6, 2022
Tee Morant wearing a shirt tonight that says "Proud Supportive Black Dad"— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) May 4, 2022
This should be his narrative. He's cheering on his son living out a dream. He doesn't miss a game and he's so loved in that arena... knows every worker and speaks to every fan. That's what it's about pic.twitter.com/bLH1hh3NQf
In a world where at times messages get twisted, the loudest thing you can do is be there for those you care about. Tee Morant has done that throughout the life of not just Ja but his daughter and the rest of the Morant family. That has extended to the Memphis Grizzlies family as well - from team staff and arena workers to fans, there are few (if any) that haven’t noticed Tee Morant’s presence and felt the love and pride he has for what his son has become. For while Ja clearly has natural ability, a lot of work has been done in the dark that is now coming in to the light.
Safe to say, Tee Morant was likely there for a lot of that time in the dark.
There is nothing more powerful that a parent can do for their child than simply show up. Be there, present in the moment with them as they navigate this life. From the moment they first open their eyes and see you, they know you - from when they heard you in their mother’s womb, the sounds and images merge. In all kinds of families - biological, foster, adopted, etc. - while it may develop along different time frames and wavelengths one of the surest ways to show affection and pride is to see your kid trying to learn and grow.
To help pick them up when they fall. Or raise them up when they succeed.
The Morant family is one that is clearly tight-knit. They protect one another, support one another, and they are proud of one another. The accomplishments of Ja’s sister Teniya are celebrated (Tee is working with her in a similar way to how he helped Ja) and many of the Morants now call Memphis home, watching Ja rise to NBA glory together. And of course, Ja’s own daughter Kaari is becoming a bit of a legend in her own right. But what stands out more than anything when it comes to her is how her dad seeks her out as soon as he can to hold her and let her know that her dad sees her. That she matters, even in the midst of the chaos surrounding her father that she surely doesn’t understand. He calls for her. Holds her during interviews. And wants to be there for her - just like his dad was, and still is, there for him.
It can be in other ways beyond physical presence, of course. After watching Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson address the Alabama football team last summer, I began using the “I love you” sign language with my own family. Whether I was waving to my daughter as she left on the bus in the morning or when I was walking out to coach a football game, I wanted them to know I was thinking of them and was there for them. The kids have gotten good at reciprocating this sign of love - even the “I love you too” finger wave after to their friends and other family members. When unable to be right there, a reminder that you’re always there in their heart and mind.
This isn’t unique - all families of all kinds have ways of showing that they care, both in person and from afar. The last two years have taught us that, and life in general can take you away for a short time for various reasons. But in a world where so much divides us, love can be the answer to the question of rediscovering empathy and finding shared joy and struggle in how we confront life in our own families, however they may be constructed.
There’s so much I can never understand about what Tee Morant and his family have been through to be where they are now. But I can see the love he has for his children, and how that is being passed on from his kids to the next generation, and relate to the feeling of wanting the best for them. And wanting to be there for them as the good and bad of this life comes their way. You can’t save them from the slings and arrows of the world, but you can teach them how to respond. And be there for them as they do, making sure in your own way that they know you love them, no matter what.
As the years fly by, those moments become more fleeting. Taking and making the most of them becomes all the more important. Tee Morant understands that.
May we all continue to show signs of love, however we can, wherever we can.