During the NBA Finals, commissioner Adam Silver hinted at a possible punishment for Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. The troubled star had already been suspended once for eight games; less than two months later, he was shown flashing a gun during an Instagram Live video.
Today, Silver announced the punishment: 25 games, or a little over 30% of the NBA season.
It’s not the longest suspension in NBA history. Depending on how you frame a suspension, that “honor” belongs to either O.J. Mayo or Ron Artest. The former was suspended 164 games in 2016—two full seasons—for smoking marijuana and abusing painkillers. He never returned to the NBA, electing to play overseas. Artest was a central figure in the “Malice at the Palace” brawl in 2004; his suspension ultimately lasted 86 games, spanning the rest of the 2004-05 regular season and playoffs.
Still, it’s a significant penalty for Morant—and it will prove to be a costly one.
Morant is about to enter the first year of his rookie contract extension. He’s set to make $33.5 million during the 2023-24 season. Per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the suspension will cost him $7.6 million. However, if Morant’s contract is evenly distributed instead of backloaded, the 30.48% of the season that Morant is missing would be worth $10.2 million.
When Morant was suspended earlier this season, it also had financial repercussions. He missed an opportunity to make an All-NBA team, which dropped the supermax value of his new contract from $233 million to $194 million over the next five seasons — a loss of $7 million this upcoming season and $39 million over the duration of the contract.
In total, these two suspensions have likely cost Morant more than $50 million in lost money, from reduced salaries to sponsors who have dropped him as a client.
The NBA released a statement about the suspension, featuring a quote from Silver.
“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,” said Silver. “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 has already shared a response: “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.”
This will almost certainly be Morant’s last chance. He’s an exciting player, and the NBA hopes he can be one of the faces of the league. If he continues making poor choices, he’ll likely see his career end prematurely.
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