There is now this photo of Ja Morant: a picture of suffering as Jesus Christ in the arms of Mary Magdalene in the painting of Annibale Carracci. Morant is lying on a folding chair, the towel draped over his shoulders, his head thrown back, eyes closed. A dramatic moment in the NBA Finals is captured because this injury to the leader of the Memphis Grizzlies actually takes on a meaning of almost biblical proportions – it’s about basic questions in basketball: When is a mistake unsportsmanlike or even deliberately sneaky? And what can you do about it?
The playoff series between the Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors is snapsy. During the first game, the Warriors, who messed up buffalo Draymond Green, were thrown off the floor for a rude mistake – this also sparked debate. Two days later, Green had to have stitches over his right eye after an elbow bulge, colleague Gary Payton was hospitalized after being pushed from behind with a broken elbow. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called the Grizzlies’ game “dirty”; Green announced that he could also play dirty – which, when he comes out of his mouth, sounds like colleague Steph Curry says he can also throw a few balls in the basket.
Then the following scene happened in game four: Warriors point guard Jordan Poole pursues Morant, he wants to steal the ball but fails in the first attempt. He tries again, catches the opponent’s right knee and pulls it sideways backwards. Morant leaves the pitch, makes a pietà bag on the folding chair, and then tweets that Poole “broke the code.” So the accusation: Poole intentionally hurt him or at least deliberately accepted a bad injury. You do not do that.
When is a bug really dirty? It discusses the NBA after the action against Ja Morant
He has since deleted the post, but the dispute remains. Primarily because Morant missed Monday night’s fifth game, but Poole played. The Warriors won an exciting match 101: 98 and led in the quarterfinals with 3: 1 victories. They took the lead for the first time with 45.7 seconds left, Curry’s shooter and Green’s defensive abilities were the deciding factors. And of course the Grizzlies’ absence of Morant.
Morant had provided other images in these playoffs for which there are no comparisons to paintings, for the universal genius Michelangelo could hardly have guessed that a basketball player would be able to float without aids: Morant stormed around opponents like a Tasmanian devil, took off and defied physical laws with his body, but also with the flight curves of the ball, which he maneuvered into the basket from the most unusual angles.
Anyone who sees 22-year-old Morant gamble this way should think of Michael Jordan, whose limbo logo has become a well-known brand around the world. And Allen Iverson, the last true street basketball player in the NBA until Morant, whose career serves as a clue that not everyone starts playing ball at the age of three. And from then on, subordinated his life to the professional sports dream, before investing a mid-six-figure amount in private lessons.
Morant’s style of play is exciting, but also a risk to his body
Morant is a playmaker because he has professionalized gambling and added variations as a long-distance throw to his basketball game since being named Rookie of the Year in 2020. The style of play is exciting but also dangerous because he is constantly attacked by multiple opponents, colliding with other players when flying over and landing often unbalanced.
The NBA is marketing this play. It protects its players with stricter rules than in the 1980s, when a professional would throw his opponent off the field with bar fights without fear of procrastination. But the NBA also does not want to be perceived as a rigid league where nothing is legal anymore, and therefore the awful term “playoff foul” exists. That should mean: Now that the title is at stake, you can play a little more raw, even if the official rules say nothing about it – but what exactly does that mean? It’s the subject of debate, and that’s what the ‘code’ discussion, which Morant mentioned after his injury, is about.
When Green pulls on his floating opponent’s jersey; as Grizzlies player Dillon Brooks sees the leaping warrior Gary Payton jr. pushes from behind; when the elbow lands in Green’s face; if Morant twists his knee: could it be deliberate unsportsmanlike conduct or “playoff fouls”? There is no answer, because there are no clear rules, everyone interprets the scenes differently. The judges decide after watching the videos. They are criticized for that – no matter how they interpret the rules. The gray area for “playoff fouls” is as large as the playing field. The NBA should immediately reduce them in the interest of all involved.
Morant watched this fourth game behind his Grizzlies bench in a gray sweater with the hood over his head. Position: sad, arms crossed over chest. He resembled Francis of Assisi on the Carraci painting. It also has an angel with wings ready to fly. Morant may be operational again for game five on Wednesday.