Report: Ja Morant Fought A Security Guard At The Mall And A Boy At A Pickup Game
11:04 AM EST on March 2, 2023
A Wednesday article by the Washington Post's Molly Hensley-Clancy offered a roundup of Grizzlies star Ja Morant's recent misadventures, drawing on some newly obtained police reports. The freshest reporting describes a conflict that began at a Finish Line shoe store in a Memphis mall last summer: Morant's mother got into a dispute with a store employee and called her son, who showed up with "a group of as many as nine other people." Per the report, Morant's group got into a conflict with the head of mall security, and someone in the group pushed the security director in the head. Before leaving, Morant allegedly said "Let me see what time he gets off," which the guard interpreted as a threat, leading him to file a police report. No arrests were made. None of the Grizzlies, NBA, or Morant's agent replied to the Post's request for comment.
The Post also offers some new details on a previously reported conflict between Morant and an unnamed 17-year-old that took place during a pickup basketball game at Morant's home in Memphis, less than a week after the mall run-in. The boy told police that Morant threw the ball hard at him, and he threw it hard back, only for it to slip between Morant's hands and hit him in the chin. The boy said Morant put his chin on the boy's shoulder and asked his friend, "Do I do it to him?" The boy said Morant then punched him 12 or 13 times, Morant's friend punched him four or five times, and Morant then went into his home and emerged with his hand on a gun in his pants. In a police interview with Morant, the Grizzlies player acknowledged that he swung first, but that "the ball was the first swing to me," and that the boy "did not apologize" and "squared up" after throwing the ball. Witnesses confirmed that Morant threw the first punch, though Morant denied throwing additional punches. Police did not directly question Morant about a gun. Two weeks after the incident, Morant and his family filed their own police report, alleging that the boy said he would "come back and light this place up like fireworks."
The police report includes a quote from one of Morant's attorneys: "The first thing we got was a $20 million demand. This is a shakedown." The Post story works in a strange reference to unsuccessful lawsuits previously filed by the boy's mother against the city's fire department and against her children's school district.
According to the Post, the friend of Morant who threw punches in the pickup game fight was Davonte Pack. In a Jan. 29 home game against the Pacers, while Morant was arguing with opponents, it was Pack who walked onto the court to swear at Pacers players and was escorted off the floor. Per The Athletic, after the game, Pack and other men confronted Pacers' players and staff before Morant arrived, and his entourage left in their cars. One of those cars turned and drove slowly past the group of Pacers players and staff, allegedly training red lasers on them, which led a Pacers security guard to speculate that it was a gun. The NBA told The Athletic that it conducted an investigation, including interviews with witnesses and a review of surveillance footage, and was unable to confirm the presence of weapons, though it did ban some of the individuals involved from attending games in the arena. Morant later wrote that "my brother"—presumably Pack—was banned from home games for a year.
Morant has yet to offer his own account of the mall dustup, and who knows if he ever will. The league hasn't issued a statement on Morant since the laser incident. There's a bit of automatic queasiness that kicks in whenever a black NBA star comes under scrutiny for off-court behavior—think David Stern's crusade against Allen Iverson—and there's some automatic skepticism when that scrutiny is this deeply grounded in police reports. I didn't want to read too extensively into this pickup game fight when it was first reported by TMZ two months ago. But this is the word of a 17-year-old invited by his idol to shoot some hoops, against the word of a lawyered-up superstar surrounded by friends and family. In the most charitable interpretation of these events, one of the NBA's premier names, who is about to begin a $194 million max extension, punched a child who threw a ball at him and brought nine people to threaten a mall security guard over his mother's shoe-store dispute. It's at best ridiculous, and at worst, ominous.
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