Is Ja Morant Finally Ready to Be the Next Face of the NBA After LeBron James and Stephen Curry Following His Thunderous Return?

Published 12/20/2023, 10:53 AM EST

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The Memphis Grizzlies can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Their patriarch is back. After serving a 25-game suspension, Ja Morant stepped foot in front of a packed crowd in Memphis. The two-time All-Star was greeted with rapturous applause. It was time for him to take everyone’s breath away again.

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“I’m not forcing a historic game my first game back,” is what Morant claimed in his press conference earlier this week.

However, the events to follow were nothing short of poetic. After failing in the first half and the Grizzlies trailing by over 20 points, the prolific star Memphis was so missing emerged. Ja Morant took matters into his own hands and delivered a sensational performance on his return.


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The game went down to the buzzer. Morant got the ball and the moment was right there. The 2020 Rookie of The Year went to the hoop in trademark fashion, spun, and delicately placed the ball in the net right as the buzzer went off. Talk about a glorious homecoming, it doesn’t get better than that.

Morant did land up making history as he scored the most points for a player returning after 25 games. Life and screams were back in Memphis, who are at the bottom of the NBA pile at this moment. But now there is hope because their 6’2″ killer is back.

Ja Morant went from horrible to ecstasy tonight

Six months ago, Morant’s life was completely different. It had turned over itself. For the second time in three months, he was seen brandishing a firearm on social media. His actions were concerning given his star status in the league. Moreover, a repeated offense meant Adam Silver had to resort to a more severe punishment than before. Ja Morant was handed a 25-game suspension for this season.

With the new rule, he won’t be eligible for any honors this season. However, it had much larger repercussions on the Grizzlies franchise and Morant himself. Days were “horrible” as he accounted in his press conference. He also takes the task of reviving Memphis on himself.


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Today what we saw was a man, hopefully changed and locked in on his mission. Never did it seem like Morant was going to let fans down who have been waiting for his return for months. When all seemed to be crumbling away, Morant gave Memphis a lifeline. His second wind was spectacular, to say the least.

Quick runs to the basket, fancy passes and a lot of flair is what followed. Even when away from NBA action for so long, Ja Morant’s confidence was unaffected. His passion was easily noticeable with every effort to dig Memphis out of a double-digit deficit.

Destiny worked its magic and somehow gave him the opportunity to announce his return in the most emphatic style possible – a buzzer-beater. Morant didn’t think twice. He sunk the New Orleans Pelicans with a floater and called game. If we assume Morant has changed, he just showcased the qualities to become the next superstar of the NBA.

The question is, can he take over from LeBron James and Stephen Curry?

LeBron James and Stephen Curry aren’t ready to give up control just yet

Hyped prospects entered the league, various trade moves shifted the power scales of the NBA, many emerged as close successors of being the face of the league as well. However, two guys continue to steer the NBA in it’s roaring success. The first is LeBron James. Touted as the ‘Chosen One, being the image of the league were bare minimum expectations since he was a teenager. What no one saw coming was the arrival of a King.

For 21 years now, LeBron James has held his seat as the most followed and happening entity in the NBA. What’s baffling is that he is 38 years old! A traditional career would be over by now, or at least one would be fairly subdued. But with the Akron Hammer, he is enjoying a fourth prime in a way with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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James is averaging 25.2 points a game and experienced the best shooting stretch of his career at this stage. Along with Antony Davis, he has refueled the Lakers as title contenders this season after an unprecedented WCF appearance last year. No part of his game suggests LeBron James is even close to the finish. The seasoned forward is still a basketball architect elevating the men around him. He is enjoying the game, defying normality, and casually kicking boots with the young talents in the league.

Sharing a seat beside James is Stephen Curry. Acknowledged as the greatest shooter of all time, the master scorer is on pace to surpass 4000 threes if he stays healthy for another season. Even with his colossal production on the court, the Golden State Warriors are in a state of mayhem. Draymond Green is suspended, Andrew Wiggins is underperforming and Klay Thompson’s decline is palpable. But in the face of adversity, Curry remains the shining hope for the Bay.

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Ja Morant Declares Basketball “Therapeutic” With a Movie-Script Return After 25-Game Suspension

But it isn’t their on-court proficiency that makes them the face. It’s them doing right by the millions who look up to them. Neither LeBron James nor Stephen Curry sparked any controversy. They are model citizens who are aware of their radiating impact on youth. They carefully conduct business and set the right example for the coming age. Philanthropy, kind gestures, and relentlessly working to improve are quintessential to earning the title. That’s what it takes. Both on and off-court brilliance.

Does Ja Morant have that?

Actions will determine what path Morant will take

Even though he has just returned, it is evident Ja Morant has matured. He doesn’t try to sway people with words. Morant understands his actions could have had dangerous and inhuman consequences on youngsters. He addressed his antics and cooperated with the league’s directives to make a successful return.


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However, he doesn’t regret what happened. And the reason is that it was because of these harsh experiences that he realized the weight of his own actions. Morant said he learned invaluable lessons on how to conduct himself, and he is right.

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Ja Morant also said that he doesn’t want acceptance through his words. All he wants is a chance for the fans to see the reformed version of himself, one that isn’t as careless and self-harming as he was six months ago. Respecting his wishes, I won’t positively claim he can be the next ‘face’ unless I see a stark change.


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If the Grizzlies guard can be a role model that influences the young kids in the right manner while being a potent basketball star, nothing will stop him from taking the reins himself. He has the desire to be the best, the story of being overlooked, and now an opportunity to transform his image. Whether he takes it remains up to him. I certainly hope he does.



Written by:

Anuj Talwalkar


One take at a time

Anuj Talwalkar is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Having composed close to 2000 articles, he aspires to manage his own team one day and is pursuing a top-tier college-level management program specializing in sports. Anuj's love for basketball blossomed after he started following the NBA a few years ago, and he decided to merge his writing skills with his understanding of this thrilling game.
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