NBA commissioner Adam Silver described himself as “shocked” when he saw a social media video of Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant holding a firearm less than two months after they met to discuss a similar incident that resulted in an eight-game suspension.
The Grizzlies on Sunday suspended Morant from all offseason team activities, pending the league office’s review of the video that surfaced over the weekend.
“Honestly, I was shocked when I saw this weekend that video,” Silver told ESPN’s Malika Andrews from the NBA’s draft lottery Tuesday in Chicago. “Now, we’re in the process of investigating it, and we’ll figure out exactly what happened to the best we can. The video is a bit grainy and all that, but I’m assuming the worst.”
Morant was previously suspended in March after he could be seen during an Instagram Live session holding up a handgun while intoxicated at a Denver area club when the Grizzlies were in town to play the Nuggets.
Morant enrolled in a Florida counseling facility — to learn how to manage stress better, he later said — before traveling to New York City to meet with Silver at the commissioner’s office 11 days after the incident.
Silver elected to suspend Morant for eight games without pay due to conduct detrimental to the league — a punishment that included six games the point guard had already missed — and issued a stern statement calling Morant’s conduct “irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous.”
“We talked directly about the consequences first,” Silver told ESPN on Tuesday. “Before we got to a subsequent potential to have done something wrong, we were very focused on the misconduct that was in front of us at the time. Frankly, most of our conversation was about how incredibly serious the first incident was of waving a firearm on social media.
“Again, the consequences there — an eight-game suspension — was pretty serious and something that he, at least to me, seemed to take incredibly seriously in that time. And we spoke for a long time about not just the consequences that could have on his career, but the safety issues around it — (Morant) could’ve injured, maimed, killed himself, someone else with an act like that — and also the acknowledgment that he’s a star. He has an incredibly huge following, and (we discussed) my concern — and I thought he shared with me — that millions, if not tens of millions, of kids globally would have seen him do something that was celebrating in a way that act of using a firearm in that fashion.
“So I at least was left with the sense that he was taking this incredibly serious.”
The Instagram Live video that emerged over the weekend came from the account of Morant’s best friend, Davonte Pack, who has been involved in several of Morant’s off-court incidents that merited investigation from the league office. Pack was banned from attending Grizzlies home games for a year following an investigation into a postgame confrontation with the Indiana Pacers’ traveling party on Jan. 29, when a red laser was alleged to have been pointed out of an SUV in which Morant was traveling.
“NBA Security and league investigators conducted an investigation interviewing numerous eyewitnesses and reviewing video surveillance following allegations made by the Indiana Pacers organization regarding a postgame incident on Jan. 29,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement following that incident. “While we substantiated that a postgame situation arose that was confrontational, based on interviews and other evidence gathered, we could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon.”