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OPINION: Ja Morant is the next great American poet



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Ja Morant misses a dunk late in the second half. Tribune News Service

A youngster who thrives when grown men can't, working basketball magic for the crowds he enchants. It is easy to see why the Grizzlies fans chant for the NBA’s premiere rookie— Ja Morant. 

Just as Walt Whitman and Robert Frost put passion on a page, Morant crafts verses on his own hardwood stage. Sports can be an art form that elicits emotion, and Morant’s work is nothing if not poetry in motion. 

His game is a master class in skill diversity with countless tricks he refined at Murray State University. Step-backs and slam dunks are both in his arsenal, so stopping Morant is just short of farcical. 

At 20 years old, standing 6-foot-3, Morant is the hero of Memphis, Tennessee. Regardless of age, he's trusted to lead, and the Grizzlies now cling to the West’s eighth seed. 

To hoist his team on the shoulders he’s yet to fill out should be enough to convince all those who still doubt. But what truly earns Morant all the cheers and the shouts is how his body moves as he’s weaving about.

Morant is electric before he even takes a shot. His ball-handling proficiency cannot be taught, as he seemingly invents techniques on the spot. When it looks like a swarm of opponents has him caught, Morant whirls through the defensive clot. 

With the ball in his hand, Morant seems to dance. He careens toward the paint where he hasn’t a chance to score on a center in a firm, ready stance. Yet from backboard to hoop the ball will still glance and leave Morant’s man in a stupefied trance.

Take a quick look at the instant replay and you’ll see Morant’s body twist every which way. An airborne contortion in a defensive foray, each Morant layup is an acrobatic display. 

Though Morant himself is light on his feet, his dunks come down harder than solid concrete. Each two-handed jam rips attendees from seats as the video board shows the slam on repeat. 

Meanwhile Morant looks like he’s desperately clinging, fists clenching rim, legs wildly swinging.

Raw power from Morant can be a surprise given what his thin frame leads one to surmise. This enhances Morant’s inclination to shock an unsuspecting shooter with a chase-down block. A juxtaposition of grace and brute force, Morant can show poise, but never remorse. 

For Morant’s greatest strengths, dunks top the list, but he’s also prolific when it comes to assists. Like any good point guard, Morant often insists that a teammate try to score where he might have missed. 

Early criticisms were quickly shelved when the people who gave them saw Morant for themselves. The deeper into Morant’s highlights you delve, the more you will come to adore number 12. 

Meteoric does not quite describe the ascension Morant has made with the world's rapt attention. It is wrong to discuss Morant and not mention the prize for which he is now in contention.

Productive on offense and ruthless defending, Rookie of the Year is all but impending for Morant when his first season reaches its ending. The league’s new face was meant to be Zion Williamson. Morant either ignored that or nobody filled him in. 

He doesn’t showboat, but Morant knows his fame. From a young man who hears arenas screaming his name, a fair bit of ego is hard to blame. An interviewer once asked how Morant viewed his game. 

With the chance to be humble, he gloated instead, through a line that let fans straight inside the man’s head.

“I am a point god,” Morant said.

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