The suspension Ja Morant received for appearing to brandish a gun while on Instagram Live took over the NBA world this weekend and prompted a warning from Stephen A. Smith.
The ESPN pundit said Saturday before the broadcast of a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers he saw the parallels between what’s happening with the Memphis Grizzlies star and what Allen Iverson went through during the first part of his career.
Smith then launched into a warning for Morant, making sure the superstar point guard remembered his standing among others in the NBA and how the league knows what’s going on whether he posts on social media or not.
“You are a superstar. You are 23 years old. You got a deal that kicks in next year that could exceed $231 million over the next five years and on this show on national television there’s you associated with police,” Smith said. “Think about that for a second and then ask yourself, ‘Is it really, really worth it?’ You know the answer to that, bro. It’s not worth it.
“You’re a superstar basketball player. You represent your organization, you represent your family, you represent your city, you got to be mindful of all of that. It’s never off. And so many times we don’t tell these players this. The NBA has off-duty police officers. They got connections with the FBI. They got connections with everybody. The NBA knows what you’re doing. They know who you’re doing it with. They know where you are. They know how you’re conducting yourself at all times.”
Smith also had a message for Morant’s father on the ESPN pregame show.
Morant streamed the video on his Instagram Live and a screenshot of him appearing to hold the gun was quickly circulated around social media outlets. The video was streamed hours after the Grizzlies played the Denver Nuggets early Saturday morning. The Grizzlies were set to take on the Clippers and Lakers in their upcoming games in Los Angeles.
Morant issued an apology after he received a two-game suspension.
“I take full responsibility for my actions last night,” Morant said. “I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies organization for letting you down. I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”
The gun incident is the latest in a string of controversies looming over the superstar point guard. Morant’s actions were investigated after a Jan. 29 incident in Memphis that he said led to a friend, Davonte Pack, being banned from home games for a year.
Morant and Pack also are involved in a civil lawsuit brought after an incident this past summer in which a 17-year-old alleged that they assaulted him at Morant’s home. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office said in January that it was “aware of the incident, and after careful review of the facts, decided that there was not enough evidence to proceed with a case.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.