The Memphis Grizzlies Understand The Importance Of Creating A Home Away From Home For Ja Morant
The Memphis Grizzlies won their seventh straight game Friday night in a 113-109 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers but the highlight of the evening might have been the way that they hosted over 1000 of rookie Ja Morant's biggest fans.
Most organizations have a bobblehead night or something in that realm to shine a light on their players. Some do things that are more specific for their players, especially rookies that they project to be good like Ja Morant, but in the case of the Memphis Grizzlies, they did something even more specific to make their uber-talented rookie feel, well...at home.
The Grizzlies hosted 'Murray State Night' as an opportunity to connect more newly imported fans of the team to the actual product on the court - a way to see one of their own, Ja Morant in person. The Grizzlies launched a street team on the Murray State campus and in combination with the efforts of the team's group sales department, to make the night a success. Those in attendance got an opportunity to have a quick meet and greet with the former Murray State Racer before the game and filled their allocated section to capacity two hours before the game started.
Morant, who grew up in Sumpter, South Carolina, attended Murray State in Murray, Kentucky for two years before now finding a home in another small city with a big heart - Memphis, Tennessee. Morant put on a show in front of his faithful following as well as his newfound hometown fans in Memphis scoring 16 points with 8 assists. He was packing away his blue and gold shoes that he wore at Murray State, that he also wore for a stretch against the Cavaliers last night as he shared his thoughts on the fans from Murray being there to show their support.
“Man, it just describes Racer Nation," Morant said proudly. "They’ve been showing a lot of support to me since Day 1, and I’m thankful for them. It’s always Racer Nation.”
Morant was on the receiving end of an alley-oop slam and he jokingly said that it was something that the fans from Murray had grown accustomed to.
“Yes. I’m pretty sure they’re kind of used to it," said Morant. "They’ve seen a couple of those. They’ve seen a lot of alley-oops between me and Shaq [Buchanan, his Murray State teammate]. I think they’re kind of used to it"
Morant, who also received his second NBA Rookie of the Month award before the game, would also speak on how he sees a similar love for him here in Memphis with Grizzlies fans.
“Definitely," said Morant when asked does he see a similar love for him here in Memphis. "When they call my name for the starting lineup and hearing everybody. I’m just thankful. Grateful to be here, and [will] continue to do what I do for our fans.”
Over one-thousand fans from Murray showed up for the game with many opting to make a vacation out of it and staying in Memphis the entire weekend with plans to attend the Martin Luther King game against the New Orleans Pelicans as well. The fans in attendance were gracious to have the Grizzlies host them and a few would share their appreciation.
"I thought it was great marketing because of the love our community has for Ja Morant and his family," said Howard Boone who traveled from Murray along with his family. "Few fan bases in the nation are as passionate as Racer fans."
Boone would also show his pleasure with the Grizzlies and Ja Morant as a whole.
"Memphis is the perfect fit for Ja Morant," Boone would add. "He will do for Memphis what he has done for Murray State. Memphis already has become the most exciting team to watch in the NBA. At Murray, it was the same way. He put our community on the map because it seemed he was on ESPN top plays after every game. It’s not hyperbole to say there is something magical about his play and personality. Memphis will absolutely love everything about Ja Morant and the Morant family."
Courtney Starks was another Murray alum in attendance who also heaped praise on the Grizzlies organization and looks forward to the team's future with Morant at the helm.
"First class," Starks said to describe the event. "I mean Murray is a three-hour drive. I think it meant a lot to not only the fans that got to travel but those in Murray."
"Ja is Ja, I knew from day one he was going to be a stud not only in college but also in the NBA," Starks would add. "He fits in tremendously, and the guys seem to love him. I love the direction the organization is heading, I mean heck, this is supposed to be a rebuilding year and here they are three games out of the seventh seed for the playoffs. They have great young talent and I think within the next 3-5 years they will be in the NBA Finals."
Ja Morant Locker Room Comments
Morant was all smiles as usual after the game but thanks to the Grizzlies and his fans from Murray being there front and center to support him his smile seemed to have a little more width than usual.
"It's special, man. I can't thank them enough," Morant said about the Grizzlies providing such a night for him and the Murray fans coming in droves. "It's a little emotional night obviously. I can't show it much but I'm very thankful for Murray and the Grizzlies for everything that they have done for me."