NBA suspends Ja Morant 25 games for latest gun incident

The NBA has suspended Ja Morant for 25 games to start the 2023-24 season following the most recent instance of the Memphis Grizzlies star brandishing a firearm on social media, the league announced Friday.

Two months after NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended Morant for eight games for a series of off-court infractions, including multiple gun-related incidents, Morant flashed what appeared to be a handgun from a vehicle during an Instagram Live video last month. The league launched an investigation, which it concluded prior to the NBA Finals. Morant is currently on an indefinite suspension from the Grizzlies.

In a short statement Friday, the Grizzlies said they respected the league’s decision to suspend Morant. The team added, “Our standards as a league and team are clear, and we expect that all team personnel will adhere to them.”

Morant will also be required to meet certain conditions before he returns to play, the league said in a statement.

The league “uncovered a fair amount of additional information” during its investigation, Silver said during his annual state-of-the-league address prior to Game 1 between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat.

“The potential for other young people to emulate Ja’s conduct is particularly concerning,” Silver said in the statement released Friday. “… For Ja, basketball needs to take a back seat at this time.”

Morant also released a statement Friday in which he apologized to the league and fans. He said he would spend the offseason working on his mental health and decision making, and would “make it up to” everyone he disappointed.

Nike also released a statement regarding Morant, whose first signature shoe was released in December:

Morant has not been charged with any crimes as a result of his actions. However, the NBA has become increasingly concerned with Morant’s behavior during what he has described as a trying year mentally. After suffering a hand injury during his team’s first-round series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Morant told the media, “I’m just pretty much numb to everything now. I’m not even surprised. It’s one thing after another.”

Police conducted a wellness check on Morant in late May after the 23-year-old posted to Instagram a series of captions over pictures of his loved ones that read, “Love ya ma,” “Love ya pops,” “You da greatest babygirl love ya,” and, simply, “Bye.” Morant told police “he is fine” and “taking a break from social media.”

The NBA suspended Morant for eight games in March after he filmed himself on Instagram Live flashing a gun from the Colorado strip club Shotgun Willie’s. The suspension came on the heels of a Washington Post report that outlined three separate incidents involving Morant, two of which were reported to police.

A 17-year-old reportedly alleged to authorities that the two-time All-Star punched him in the head and threatened him with a gun during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s house in July 2022. That same month, Morant and his confidantes were reportedly asked to leave a Memphis mall parking lot following a verbal altercation at a Finish Line shoe store. A security guard alleged that Morant threatened him and a friend of the Grizzlies star assaulted him in the parking lot. Neither allegation resulted in criminal charges.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant sits on the bench during the first half of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant sits on the bench during the first half of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

In January, members of the Indiana Pacers organization alleged to The Athletic that Morant’s friends confronted them inside FedEx Forum, allegedly pointing a red laser at them that they believed was “100%” attached to a gun. A league investigation “could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon,” but multiple Morant associates were barred from games as a result of the confrontation.

Morant took a leave of absence from the Grizzlies in early March and entered a counseling program in Florida to “work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being,” he said in a statement. He left the clinic days later and met with Silver at the NBA’s New York office on March 15.

“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous. It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him,” Silver said in a statement announcing Morant’s eight-game suspension without pay, which made him eligible to return March 20. “He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for his behavior. Ja has also made it clear to me that he has learned from this incident and that he understands his obligations and responsibility to the Memphis Grizzlies and the broader NBA community extend well beyond his play on the court.”

Morant returned to the Grizzlies on March 22, less than three weeks from their game in Denver. He suffered a hand injury during Memphis’ Game 1 loss to the Lakers in the first round and missed his team’s Game 2 victory. He scored 45 points in Game 3 but just 10 during a 40-point loss in a season-ending Game 6. The Grizzlies won 51 games this past season and entered the playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed.

Morant’s eight-game ban limited him to 61 regular-season games and cost him an All-NBA roster spot, which would have boosted his maximum contract another $40 million over the next five years. His latest suspension will prevent him from meeting the new 65-game threshold for All-NBA eligibility in 2023-24.