Ja Morant has spent most of his offseason out of the public eye, save for the occasional social media post. But the Memphis Grizzlies point guard was in New York on Saturday at the celebrity-studded Nike World Basketball Festival at Lincoln Center.
It was Morant’s first notable public appearance since the NBA suspended him 25 games in June for conduct detrimental to the league. Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Sue Bird, Dirk Nowitzki and Sheryl Swoopes were among the Nike-endorsed basketball athletes in attendance.
The Nike World Basketball Festival is a two-day event that features some of the best high school players in the world in one tournament. Many of the top-ranked boys and girls in the upcoming recruiting classes played in their respective championships on Saturday.
Morant and San Antonio Spurs number one draft pick Victor Wembanyama served as honorary captains of the South Boys team. The South’s opponent, the East team, had Booker and Durant as honorary captains.
In part of the statement Morant issued after the NBA announced his 25-game suspension, he pledged to better represent his sponsors and his brand.
Even with an eventful start to the offseason, Morant’s Nike brand hasn’t taken a big hit. His “Ja 1” sneakers remain a hot commodity in Memphis. NBA players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and former Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks have already worn the Ja 1 in games, and more players are likely to join the group when next season begins.
Due to the suspension, the earliest Morant can wear his signature cleats in an NBA game is Dec. 19 against the New Orleans Pelicans. That will be the Grizzlies’ 26th game of the season and will be televised nationally on TNT.
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It remains unclear when Morant will be allowed to return to his Grizzlies teammates at the team facility. When Morant was suspended last season, he was not allowed to use the team facilities. Due to the length of his 25-game pause, the NBA could allow Morant to return to the team before his suspension ends to improve his basketball conditioning.
Morant has worked out with some of his Grizzlies teammates during the offseason at local high schools in the Memphis area.
The Grizzlies will play their first preseason game on October 8 (7 p.m., Bally Sports Southeast) against the Indiana Pacers. Regular season action will begin on October 25 against the Pelicans (7 p.m., Bally Sports Southeast).
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