Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant Captures City’s Heart on Year’s Longest Day

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Ja Morant knocked his first impression out of the park with the Memphis Grizzlies fan base, which confirms he is the right guy to take control of the franchise.

With Friday, June 21st being the longest day of the calendar year in terms of daylight, Ja Morant would probably agree without seeing scientific data to support this statement. After being selected No. 2 overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft, he quickly became integrated with the Memphis Grizzlies organization, the fan base, and Memphians as a whole.

Talk about a whirlwind of events for the 19-year-old point guard out of Murray State. He had a smooth and rather uneventful journey through the pre-Draft process as he was sidelined with a minor injury, plus his high ranking warranted few workout/interview opportunities. Then within 24 hours, he draws maximum buzz on Draft Night followed by a flight directly to Memphis, where he was introduced to nearly the entire city. There, he was metaphorically handed the keys to the town.

It takes a special type of talent to handle all the hype, all the attention, and the buzz in general. This is another reason why Morant is so unique, hence his high ranking over the past several months leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft. Both on and off the court, Ja is a generational elite talent at the point guard position, and this has been the absolute perfect time for him to land in Memphis’ possession.

In the same week the Grizzlies dealt Mike Conley, arguably the franchise’s all-time best player with a tenure of 12 complete seasons, Memphis landed their perfect replacement. There are no questions, uncertainties, or mixed feelings. Morant is the man for Memphis, and that was on full display at Friday’s introductory press conference inside FedEx Forum.

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Morant matches Conley’s personality in serious, yet positive, demeanor in addition to displaying focus throughout his aura. You can tell that Ja is locked in even though it will be a few months until he plays in regulation games for the Grizzlies. This should excite Grizz Nation because it means he is going to hit his rookie season head-on and will take the league by storm. His game will put the rest of the league on notice that the Grizzlies will be a force in the Western Conference for years to come.

As Conley leaves behind a legacy that will be a tall task to match, a better candidate for succession could not be had. Morant prefers to remain low-key and enjoys being the underdog. Much like Mike and former Grizzlies squads of years’ pasts, the franchise has set themselves up to plow through doubters yet again this decade and into the next.

In Friday’s presser, Morant touched upon Conley’s legacy, Memphis BBQ, expectations, and more. He is happy to be in Memphis, which is almost unusual for a high-ranking prospect or player in the NBA. With him discussing these things face-to-fact with the public eye, Ja gained the trust and favor of Memphis — not just the team, but the city as a whole.

Ja Morant’s tenure, however long it may last, is sure to be exciting and entertaining. He is a total package of a point guard and has all the tools to became one of the greatest — if not the greatest — player in Grizzlies franchise history. He has successfully completed Step One by making a strong first impression among the fan base, placing them on his side by his first day on the job. Now, the focus swings to results.

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Time will tell how great of a player Morant will become, but the hype behind his potential speaks for itself. Memphis likely drafted a superstar and future NBA All-Star this past Thursday when they took a chance on Ja with the No. 2 overall pick. This is a time for the Grizzlies — and Morant — to indulge. Ja has achieved his life’s dream, and you could say the Grizzlies have done the same for themselves. It is almost a guarantee Morant becomes one of the NBA’s leading stars. This was the moment Memphis has wanted and needed.