Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant has been suspended 25 games without pay for conduct detrimental to the league, the NBA announced Friday.
Morant’s suspension begins immediately and will remain in effect through the first 25 games of the 2023-24 regular season. Morant will also have to adhere to certain conditions before being reinstated, the NBA said. Additionally, Morant is ineligible to participate in any public league or team activities, including preseason games, during the course of his suspension.
It is the second time he has been suspended in the last three months for showing a firearm on social media, following an eight-game suspension in March.
“Ja Morant’s decision to once again wield a firearm on social media is alarming and disconcerting given his similar conduct in March for which he was already suspended eight games,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Friday. “The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s conduct is particularly concerning. Under these circumstances, we believe a suspension of 25 games is appropriate and makes clear that engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior with guns will not be tolerated.”
Morant is due to make around $33.5 million this season. He now stands to lose just over $300,000 per game during this suspension — or approximately $7.5 million.
Morant was seen on a friend’s Instagram feed holding what appeared to be a gun last month, prompting the latest NBA investigation. Morant had already been suspended by the Grizzlies from team activities, in anticipation of the NBA sanction.
Silver’s stance is clear: Morant’s actions, even without being charged with a crime, have severe consequences, particularly at a time in the country where gun violence is a massive problem and Morant — one of the league’s most popular players — is looked to as a role model by children and adults alike.
Morant issued a statement Friday in which he said, in part: “I’ve had time to reflect and realize how much hurt I’ve caused. I want to apologize to the NBA, the Grizzlies, my teammates and the city of Memphis. … I’m spending the offseason and my suspension continuing to work on my own mental health and decision making.
“I’m also going to be training so that I’m ready to go when I can be back on the court. … I hope you’ll give me the chance to prove to you over time I’m a better man than what I’ve been showing.”
Ja Morant statement: pic.twitter.com/KJCxTVEIRj
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2023
The National Basketball Players Association said in a statement Friday that it finds the discipline imposed on Morant to be “excessive.”
“As to the discipline imposed, which keeps him off the court until December and requires some unstated conditions to be met before he can return, we believe it is excessive and inappropriate for a number of reasons including the facts involved in this particular incident, and that it is not fair and consistent with past discipline in our league. We will explore with Ja all options and next steps.”
The National Basketball Players Association is unhappy with the length of Ja Morant’s suspension and the arbitrary nature of the conditions for his return. “We believe it’s excessive and inappropriate for a number of reasons…” NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tamaglio says. pic.twitter.com/Ne5Z4n7cCA
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2023
The Grizzlies said in a statement: “We respect the league’s decision to suspend Ja Morant following this latest episode. Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”
The league office found that, on May 13, Morant intentionally and prominently displayed a gun while in a car with several other individuals as they were leaving a social gathering in Memphis. Morant wielded the firearm while knowing that he was being recorded and that the recording was being live streamed on Instagram Live, despite having made commitments to the NBA and public statements that he would not repeat the conduct for which he was previously disciplined. On May 16, Morant issued a statement taking full accountability for his actions.
“For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time,” Silver said. “Prior to his return to play, he will be required to formulate and fulfill a program with the league that directly addresses the circumstances that led him to repeat this destructive behavior.”
The following has been released by the NBA. pic.twitter.com/dzDSb4uCk3
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) June 16, 2023
Morant is one of the league’s rising stars, the 2020 Kia Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star in his first four seasons. He was instrumental in the Grizzlies finishing with 51 wins and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season.
The suspension almost certainly means that Morant will not be eligible for any end-of-season awards in 2024, such as MVP and All-NBA. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that goes into effect July 1, a player must appear in 65 games (with limited exceptions) to be eligible for awards.
Last season, Memphis was 16-9 through its first 25 games. Morant averaged 26.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game in 61 games in 2022-23. In his career, Morant has never played in more than 67 games in a season.
Before Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals, Silver said told reporters the NBA’s investigation into Morant’s activity was completed.
“We’ve uncovered a fair amount of additional information,” Silver said then. “We probably could have brought it to a head now, but we made the decision, and I believe the Players Association agrees with us, that it would be unfair to these players and these teams in the middle of the series to announce the results of that investigation.”
After the first incident, the NBA suspended Morant for eight games. The Grizzlies star apologized and briefly sought counseling during his absence.
Silver, meanwhile, went on ESPN to say he was “shocked” by the video, however grainy. Morant and his friend were in the front seat of a vehicle, singing along to a rap song when Morant raised the gun into the camera shot.
“Given that we’re of course in the offseason,” Silver said, “he has now been suspended by the Memphis Grizzlies indefinitely, so nothing would have changed anyway in the next few weeks. It seemed better to park that, at least any public announcement, and my sense now is that shortly after the conclusion of the Finals we will announce the outcome of that investigation.”
Information from The Associated Press and NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner was used in this report.