Ja Morant has quickly become a superstar. The Memphis Grizzlies guard has a unique skill set and is often the most gifted athlete on the basketball court on any given night.
His high-flying slam dunks have taken the internet by storm over the past couple of years, and he has helped lift his team to multiple playoff appearances and a division title. Last July, the Grizzlies rewarded Morant with a five-year supermax contract extension.
The contract included incentives which entitled Morant to nearly a quarter-billion dollars if he met certain thresholds this season.
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Now, Morant has garnered a significant amount of attention on the internet, but for reasons that have nothing to do with his on the court feats.
Morant briefly flashed a handgun at a strip club near Denver in an Instagram Live video on March 4. The ensuing fallout resulted in an eight-game suspension without pay for conduct detrimental to the league, the NBA announced Wednesday.
But the impact of Morant’s actions could further cost the star athlete an estimated $39 million.
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Per an NBA rule known as the “Derrick Rose Rule,” a team can pay 30% of its salary cap to any player that signs a maximum Designated Rookie extension, if that player meets certain qualifications.
The select qualifications include a player winning the MVP award, two Defensive Player of the Year awards in the past three seasons or two All-NBA team appearances. At least one of those qualifications has to be met before the max contract kicks in for the player to receive the salary bump.
Morant already has one appearance on the All-NBA team to his credit, and appeared to be on his way to a second appearance until the incident earlier this month.
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According to Spotrac, a second All-NBA team appearance would result in the value of Morant’s extension jumping from $194 million to $233 million.
The issue is that Morant might not play in enough games this season to qualify for an All-NBA team. If he plays in every remaining game after he returns from his suspension, Morant would finish the season with 65 games played.
“I feel like in the past we didn’t know what was at stake,” Morant said during a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Jalen Rose on Wednesday.
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The Grizzlies have managed to hold onto the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference while Morant has been away from the team. Memphis is hoping to make a deep playoff run this upcoming postseason — with the help of Morant.