Ja Morant is ridiculous.
He’s the type of basketball player that makes me feel bad for being 23 years old. We are the same age (he’s actually a few months younger), but he can drop 30 points a night in the NBA, and I struggle to make my layups consistently.
The young superstar created yet another viral clip in the Memphis Grizzlies game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night. His switch-hand dunk (or whatever you’d like to label it) perfectly encapsulated how incredible he is.
But in order to gain a more complete appreciation for his greatness, let’s break down the play.
First of all, look at the start of the play. Before he even jumps off the ground. Steven Adams sets a screen, and Morant has Trey Murphy III convinced that he’s going to his left. Murphy shuffles so far to the side that he’s basically begging Morant to go right. In Murphy’s defense, I wouldn’t be too keen to run myself into an Adams screen, either.
Within milliseconds, Morant has Murphy completely lost, keeping the ball in his right hand and driving down the lane. Now, if someone like Bam Adebayo or Giannis Antetokounmpo had been down there to meet him, maybe he would have tried to draw contact and make a layup, but it was CJ McCollum in the paint.
What is it that Shaq says? Barbeque chicken?
McCollum was actually in a pretty good position to defend Morant’s shot… if Morant were any other player in the league. No one else would have thought, “hmm, let me just switch hands real quick.”
Instead of going up and getting a hand on the ball, which McCollum could have done if Morant had gone for a normal play, the Pelicans guard finds himself on the wrong end of a highlight, left to be clipped and shared for days to come.
Morant soars in the air, moves the ball from his right hand to his left, and dunks all over McCollum’s face. The craziest part is it doesn’t even seem like Morant got a good jump. We’ve seen him fly much higher than this, and he was still in the air for twice as long as McCollum. It was just an obscene level of skill and athleticism.
And then, after the game, Charles Barkley decided that the correct takeaway was that Morant doesn’t make his teammates better and “hasn’t added that to his game”.
Morant, who averages 6.8 assists (19th in the NBA), doesn’t make his teammates better? Sure, the Grizzlies lost, but Morant dunked the ball while switching hands, and the takeaway is that he doesn’t make his teammates better? Why?
It’s fine to criticize players. In fact, it’s the media’s job to critique players, their games, and their teams. But after Morant had the highlight of the season, it’s wild that the immediate takeaway was tearing down a part of his game that isn’t even a huge flaw. Especially considering the Grizzlies were missing Desmond Bane - their second-best player.
Anyway, circling back, Morant’s switch-hands dunk may have been the highlight of the game, but he managed to put on a show all night long. Both of the following clips were in the same game.
JA MORANT FROM HALFCOURT TO BEAT THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/U0kUo7iSzT— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) November 16, 2022
Ja timed this steal perfectly pic.twitter.com/EiOqyFJkBo— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 16, 2022
The half-court buzzer-beater is one thing, but how in the world did he make that steal? It seems like he’s taking the whole “eyes in the back of the head” thing a bit too seriously. He turned into DeAndre Hopkins for a second there in the middle of an NBA game. Then, if that wasn’t enough, he took the ball all the way down the court for a layup.
Morant is a treasure, and NBA fans need to appreciate him for every second that they can.