All about Ja Morant’s parents: Ja’s father gave up basketball to raise Ja

As a neutral NBA fan, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something special is brewing in Memphis, and Ja Morant is at the center of it. Ja’s young Grizzlies team plays with the energy of youth and the mentality of seasoned campaigners. The team has shown tremendous growth in the 2021-22 season: previously, they would crumble at the end of games, but they now seem stronger as the game ends.

Morant has enjoyed a stellar season as a point guard, earning a starting birth for the Western Conference in the all-star game. Ja’s father, Tee Morant, has shown his support courtside for the entire season and will continue to do so for as long as Ja plays. 

Tee Morant played basketball alongside NBA legend Ray Allen at Hillcrest High in Dalzell. Allen went to play for the Connecticut Huskies for three seasons while Tee lined up for the Claflin University Panthers in North Carolina. 

Morant participated in a free agency camp for the NBA but was shut out because of his height. He played internationally for a bit before cutting his career short when Jamie got pregnant with Ja. Tee and Jamie welcomed Ja on 10th August 1999 in Dalzell, South Carolina.

Tee isn’t the only one in the family who made a sacrifice for Ja: Ja’s grandmother, Linda ‘Mama Lin’ Smalley, went out of her way to support Ja. Ja’s father told Murray State News:

“I tell a lot of people that there ain’t too many grandmas out there these days that are willing to drop everything for their grandchild… Mama Lin was never pushing the envelope as far as him being an NBA player or Hall of Famer or anything; Mama Lin was pushing for him to follow God’s plan.”

The Morant family’s tight bond shone during Ja’s high school career; despite posting impressive statistics, few teams showed interest in recruiting him. Per Murray State News, Ja was distraught but didn’t show it. 

He survived that challenging period by leaning on his parents and drawing motivation from Mama Lin. Ja told Mama Lin that he felt God had big plans for him, though his struggles weren’t reflecting that. Ja said:

“I know every time she could just feel when something was up or anything, and she would just tell my mom to give me a prayer or scripture to read. I just got so comfortable with it that times when I felt like the Devil is trying to attack me or anything, I’ll just go to her.” 

Ja thanks his family for supporting him through to the NFL. After the Grizzlies win against the Spurs in late January 2022, Ja dedicated the victory to his grandma and stated that he would watch the All-Star announcement with her. 

“Enjoyed The Announcement With Two People I Wanted To Be With. Granny & Grandma.” Ja tweeted.

Ja first revealed that his father was his biggest hater before the NBA draft. At the time, sections of NBA fans had publicly doubted Morant, despite his record-breaking college basketball stint. 

“I love negative energy,” Ja told reporters. “It motivates me. It really doesn’t bother me because my dad was my first hater, so if I can take it from him and I can take it from anybody.’

Morant started training with Tee when he was a little boy. In high school, Ja would practice with his coach, Dwayne Edwards, and train some more with his dad when he got home. Edwards told Murray State News that Ja’s work ethic marked him out from other players:

“Ja would practice with me, then he’d go home and practice with his daddy after practice. We’d finish up, then he’d go to the backyard with his daddy and shoot some more.”

Ja would practice even when it seemed improbable that he would get to the NBA. Tee motivated Ja by telling him that ‘cream would always rise to the top.’ Meanwhile, Jamie reminded Ja that he was ‘beneath no one,’ a phrase Morant tattooed on his left arm.

Tee’s defensive prowess helped mold Ja into a fearsome attacking point guard. Tee used to dominate Ja, but after Ja grew taller, the tables turned. “He won’t play me no more,” Ja said on The Pardon My Take Podcast. “Once I got a little taller and more athletic, he would never play me 1-on-1. He ran from the smoke.”

Ja still seeks advice from his father when he has issues with a game. Tee told The Athletic: “When he gets back to the room, he’ll probably ask me what he did wrong. He’s a self-critic, but he calls me his first hater — which I am. I still hate on him.”

“You still suck,” Tee told Morant after winning Rookie of the Year. Ja said on Pardon My Take that Tee’s message probably wouldn’t change if Ja won the NBA: “He probably would be hype, and then he would be like, ‘You still suck, but congrats.’”

Ja has expressed appreciation for his parent’s efforts by buying them cars. 

During 2021’s playoff series between the Grizzlies and Utah Jazz, three Jazz fans hurled racist insults at Ja Morant’s family. Per Sporting News, Tee said that the abuses went far beyond heckling:

“I know heckling. We were doing that the whole game. But that’s different than heckling. That’s straight up disrespectful. That was too far out of line. You don’t say nothing like that heckling. That’s beyond heckling.”

Security evicted the three fans, and the Jazz hierarchy banned them from their arena. Jazz owner, Ryan Smith, also offered the family complimentary courtside seats for Game 5 and lodging and car services. 

Tee Morant described it as a ‘nice gesture’ from Jazz. However, he stated that Jamie, Ja’s mom, couldn’t handle attending the game. “She said her anxiety couldn’t take it,” Tee said. 

After the Jazz knocked out the Grizzlies, Tee demonstrated that he held nothing against the team by expressing his support for them. “I’m going for y’all right now,” Tee told Donovan Mitchell. He continued:

“Y’all didn’t have to show love to us like that. This is what I’m saying: When shit goes bad and then you reach out, that’s how you bridge the gap. Most people don’t realize that. That’s why I appreciate you, and that’s why I hope the Jazz win the championship.”

Mitchell told ESPN that he viewed Tee’s support as ‘the ultimate sign of respect. “Things are going to happen, and you’ve got to show a side of gratitude — bridging that gap, like he said,” Donovan said. 

Donovan added that he appreciated Jazz’s swift response to the incident and warned people against tarnishing the NBA. Mitchell then praised Tee for putting effort into raising Ja and being an omnipresent source of support during games:

“To see the smile on Ja’s face to see his dad right there, that’s a holistic moment for a kid. I feel like that’s something that was truly special. It’s just a holistic and real moment to see an African American father, who has worked so hard to bring his African American son through life and also get him into the game where he was underrated and overlooked.”

Tee exuberantly supports his son and heckles opponent players. Ja said that Tee will likely get thrown out for his insistent talking: “He don’t stop talking. I’m pretty sure everybody on the other teams and the refs get tired of it. He might get ejected before I do this season.”

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