|No. 12 – Memphis Grizzlies|
|Born||August 10, 1999|
Dalzell, South Carolina, U.S.
|Listed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Listed weight||174 lb (79 kg)|
|High school||Crestwood (Sumter, South Carolina)|
|College||Murray State (2017–2019)|
|NBA draft||2019 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall|
|Selected by the Memphis Grizzlies|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Temetrius Jamel "Ja" Morant (born August 10, 1999) is an American professional basketball player for the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Nicknamed "G12", he played college basketball for the Murray State Racers, where he was a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore in 2019.
Morant was only lightly recruited by NCAA Division I programs and unranked by recruiting services, despite having been named All-Region Most Valuable Player three times and earning All-State honors at Crestwood High School in Sumter, South Carolina. Nevertheless, he made an immediate impact at Murray State University, earning first-team all-conference honors in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) as a freshman. He had a breakout sophomore season; it saw him win OVC Player of the Year as well as lead the NCAA in assists. Also as a sophomore, Morant became the first player in NCAA history to average 20-plus points and 10-plus assists per game for a single season.
Morant was selected by the Grizzlies with the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft and named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2020. He was named to his first NBA All Star Game in 2022 as a starter, and won the NBA Most Improved Player Award at the conclusion of the season, Morant was also selected to his first All-NBA Team in 2022.
Morant was born in Dalzell, South Carolina, to parents, Tee and Jamie Morant. His mother, Jamie, was a point guard in high school and a softball player in college, while his father was a high school teammate of Ray Allen and played basketball for Claflin University. After playing semi-professionally, Tee considered playing professional basketball overseas. But when Jamie became pregnant with Ja, he abandoned his basketball career and stayed at home, becoming a barber instead.
Morant trained in his backyard with his father, Tee Morant, who taught him step-back jump shots and bought tractor tires for him to practice jumping with a soft landing. In his childhood, he often faced older opponents, telling his mother, "I'm not worried about the big kids." Morant played in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit with the South Carolina Hornets, a small grassroots team based in Columbia, South Carolina. For one season, he was teammates with Zion Williamson, who became one of the top players in his class.
Morant attended Crestwood High School in Sumter, South Carolina. He grew from 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) to 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) in his first three years with the team. Morant left as its all-time leading scorer, with 1,679 points, and scored a career-high 47 points against Sumter High School. In his last two seasons at Crestwood, he averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game, earning South Carolina Class 3A All-State honors both years. Morant also left high school as a three-time All-Region Most Valuable Player (MVP). He could not dunk until he was a senior.
Morant was not ranked by recruiting services ESPN, 247Sports, or Rivals. His only high major NCAA Division I offer came from South Carolina. He was accidentally discovered by mid-major program Murray State of the OVC in July 2016, when assistant coach James Kane attended a camp hoping to see a player who was joining his team. While looking for a snack, Kane noticed Morant playing a three-on-three game in an auxiliary gym; impressed, he contacted head coach Matt McMahon, who soon offered Morant a scholarship. On September 3, 2016, Morant committed to playing for Murray State during dinner at McMahon's house. His father said, "Every parent wants their child to play at a big-time program, but what I realized is, don't go where you want to be, go to where they want you." His other Division I offers included Duquesne, Maryland Eastern Shore, South Carolina State, and Wofford.
On November 10, 2017, Morant debuted for Murray State with 7 points and a team-high 11 assists in a 118–61 victory over Brescia University of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). He recorded his first career double-double on December 12, 2017, with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists in a 69–55 loss to Saint Louis. He posted his first triple-double on December 28, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists in an 80–52 win over Eastern Illinois. It was the second triple-double in school history, the first coming from Isacc Miles in 1984, and was also the record for most assists at a CFSB Center game, surpassing the old mark of 12 established by Aubrey Reese against Alabama State in 1999. Morant also had the third-most assists in a single game by a Murray State player. On February 1, 2018, he scored a season-high 23 points against Southeast Missouri State. After averaging 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, Morant earned first-team All-OVC with his teammates Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller, and OVC All-Newcomer Team accolades. His 6.3 assists per game ranked 14th in the nation his freshman season. He became the seventh freshman in 25 years to accumulate 150 assists, 150 rebounds, and 10 blocks while shooting at least 42 percent from the field. Morant and Murray State advanced to the NCAA Tournament his freshman season after capturing an OVC Championship in a 68–51 win over Belmont. Morant had 15 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in that game. Murray State would lose in its opening round game to West Virginia, however, falling 85-68 despite Morant's 14 points.
Ja Morant began to register on the radar of some scouts the summer of his sophomore season in 2018. He was one of 20 players invited to Chris Paul's Elite Guard Camp, which Morant called, "an honor." When his sophomore season began, Morant assumed a leading role for Murray State with the departures of key players Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller. In his season debut, he recorded 26 points and 11 assists in a 74–53 win against Wright State. On November 24, 2018, Morant posted 29 points, a season-high 13 rebounds, and 12 assists in a 77–66 win over Missouri State, becoming the first Murray State player to ever record multiple triple-doubles. In his next game, he scored a season-high 38 points in a 78–72 loss to Alabama, the 12th-most single-game points by a player in school history. By around December 2018, Morant was almost unanimously projected as a top-five selection in the 2019 NBA draft, and in late January 2019, at least one outlet forecasted him as the first overall selection. At that time, then-Yahoo Sports journalist Pat Forde wrote, "He seems almost certain to be the first top-ten pick from a mid-major school in five years (Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette), and could be the first true mid-major pick in the top five since Michael Olowokandi of Pacific went No. 1 in 1998."[a]
On January 10, 2019, Morant was named to the midseason top 25 watch list for the John R. Wooden Award. On the same day, he broke the school record for most assists in a single game, with 18, while scoring 26 points against UT Martin. He established a new scoring career-high nine days later on January 19, when he recorded 40 points, 11 assists, and 5 steals, shooting 21-of-21 from the free throw line, in a victory over SIU Edwardsville. He broke the OVC record for most consecutive free throws made in a game, and he became the tenth player in Murray State history to record a 40-point game. Morant also became the first NCAA Division I men's player in 20 years to tally at least 40 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals in a single game. On February 2, Morant collected 28 points and 7 assists in a 67–63 win over Tennessee Tech. He broke the school single-season assist record of 212 set by Chad Townsend in the 1996–97 season. After posting 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 14 assists in a 102–70 victory over Eastern Kentucky, Morant became the 46th Murray State player with 1,000 career points and eclipsed the OVC record for single-season assists previously held for 32 years by Duane Washington of Middle Tennessee.
At the end of the regular season, he was named OVC Player of the Year and first-team All-OVC, while leading the NCAA Division I in assists. He later earned first-team All-American honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association and second-team All-American honors from Sporting News. On March 8, in the semifinals of the OVC tournament versus Jacksonville State, Morant scored 29 points, including a game-winning three-point play. One day later, he recorded 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in a 77–65 upset victory over the Belmont Bruins, who were playing without injured first team All-OVC center Nick Muszynski, for the OVC Tournament title. Morant was subsequently named the tournament's MVP. On March 21, in an 83–64 win over fifth-seeded Marquette in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament, Morant posted 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists. He became the eighth player to officially record a triple-double in the history of the tournament, and the first player since Draymond Green in 2012.[b] In the second round, he chipped in 28 points in a season-ending 90–62 loss to fourth-seeded Florida State. During the game, Morant set school records for career assists and single-season points. He closed his sophomore campaign averaging 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 10 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Morant became the first NCAA player to ever average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season.
Following Murray State's loss in the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament, Morant announced his intention to forgo his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2019 NBA draft.
Morant was drafted second overall during the 2019 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. On July 2, 2019, he signed a four-year contract worth $39.6 million with the Grizzlies. On October 23, 2019, Morant made his NBA debut, starting in a 101–120 loss to the Miami Heat with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block. On November 13, he recorded his first career double-double with 23 points and 11 assists, and hit a game winning layup in a 117–115 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. On February 9, 2020, he recorded his first career triple-double in a 106–99 win over the Washington Wizards. Morant was selected to the Rising Stars Game for the 2019–20 season. In the 2019–20 season, Morant led all rookies in assists with an average of 7.1 assists per game, as well as total points scored, with 1,138 (17.8 points per game). At the end of the season, he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year and earned the NBA All-Rookie First Team honor.
On December 23, 2020, Morant recorded a then career-high 44 points, alongside nine assists, two rebounds, and two steals in a 131–119 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
On May 21, 2021, in the newly implemented play-in tournament, with the eighth and final playoff spot on the line, Morant recorded 35 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists to lead Memphis to a 117–112 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors, securing the Grizzlies’ first postseason berth in four seasons. Two days later, he made his NBA playoff debut, scoring 26 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists to help lead the Grizzlies to a 112–109 upset victory in Game 1 over the top-seeded Utah Jazz. Morant followed that up with 47 points and 7 assists in Game 2, but Memphis fell short, 141–129. The Grizzlies were eliminated, losing the series in five games.
On October 20, 2021, in the Grizzlies' season opener, Morant recorded 37 points and six assists in a 132–121 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. On October 24, he scored 40 points while dishing out 10 assists in a 121–118 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. On December 29, Morant put up a season-high 41 points, behind a career-high six made three-pointers, to lead Memphis to a 104–99 victory over the Lakers.
On January 26, Morant tied his season-high 41 points, alongside 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in a 118–110 win against the San Antonio Spurs. On January 27, Morant was selected to his first All-Star Game as a West Starter. The next day, Morant logged his fourth career triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 119–109 win over the Utah Jazz. On February 16, Morant tied his then career high with 44 points, including a career high 20 points in the first quarter, grabbed 5 rebounds and delivered 11 assists in a 123–119 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers. On February 26, Morant scored a then career-high 46 points in a 116–110 win over the Chicago Bulls. The total was the record for most points in a game by a Grizzlies player, breaking Mike Miller's record set in February 2007. On February 28, Morant bested this total, scoring a career-high 52 points, on an efficient 22-of-30 shooting, including 4-4 from beyond the arc, in a 118–105 win over the San Antonio Spurs. On March 18, he tweaked his right knee against the Atlanta Hawks and missed nine games. Morant led the Grizzlies to their first Southwest Division title in franchise history. Memphis also tied their franchise record with 56 wins. Despite missing 25 games during the regular season, he was named the winner of the NBA Most Improved Player Award.
On April 21, 2022, during Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs, Morant posted 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in a 104–95 Game 3 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was the first postseason triple-double in Grizzlies franchise history. In Game 5, Morant scored the game-winning layup with one second left, finishing with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in a 111–109 win. He scored 18 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. On May 3, during Game 2 of the second round of the playoffs Morant put up a playoff career-high 47 points along with 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals in a 106–101 win over the Golden State Warriors. He scored the last 15 points for Memphis and also became just the third player in NBA playoffs history to have multiple 45-point games before turning 23 years old, joining Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. On May 7, Morant injured his right knee in game 3 of the series and Memphis would go on to lose in 6 games. In the three games he played, he averaged 38.3 points per game on 50.6%/43.3%/85.7% shooting splits.
On July 6, 2022, Morant signed a five-year extension with the Grizzlies. The deal includes $193 million of guaranteed money, increasing to $231 million contingent upon his selection to an All-NBA team. On October 21, in the second game of the season, Morant recorded 49 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks on 17-of-26 shooting from the field in a 129–122 win over the Houston Rockets. He set the Grizzlies franchise mark for most points scored through the first two games of a season (83). On November 27, Morant put up his fifth career triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists in a 127–123 win over the New York Knicks. He also tied Marc Gasol for the most triple-doubles in Grizzlies history. On December 7, Morant put up his sixth career triple-double with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists In a 123–102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also surpassed Marc Gasol for the most triple-doubles in Grizzlies history.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|*||Led NCAA Division I|
Morant has a younger sister, Teniya, who grew up playing basketball with him in their backyard and now competes for Hillcrest Middle School in Dalzell. He has the words "beneath no one”, advice his mother gave him, tattooed on his left arm. Morant's favorite artist is rapper Lil Baby. His athleticism often draws comparisons to Russell Westbrook, who Morant said is his favorite player because Westbrook is often overlooked, just like he was by college recruiters in high school.
Morant has a daughter who was born in 2019.
Morant received a shout-out from rapper J. Cole on the song "My Life" from Cole's 2021 album The Off-Season. On June 1, 2021, rapper Moneybagg Yo released the song "Rookie of the Year" in celebration of Morant being named NBA Rookie of the Year. The song reflects on Morant's "underdog mentality and praises his rise from a little known college freshman to being named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2019–20". On June 3, Morant released a six-episode documentary, Promiseland, focusing on his first NBA season.
He briefly played for a semi-pro team in Columbia, but the franchise’s problems with paying its players led him to reconsider his options. He was flirting with playing overseas when Jamie told him the news: The Morants were going to have a son.
'Instead of going to play basketball, he stayed to raise me,' he said. 'That’s my motivation. I’m living my dream and his dream right now.'