Bill's Blog


I have been a devoted fan of the Memphis Grizzlies since they moved to Memphis from Vancouver over 20 years ago.  While I don’t want to overstate the importance of sports, I honestly believe that the Grizzlies coming to Memphis has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened in our City.  In our historically divided City, the Grizzlies literally bring us together.  

A Grizzlies basketball game is the most inclusive event we will find in our City.  While legal segregation thankfully ended in Memphis over 50 years ago, de facto segregation is still with us.  Our neighborhoods, schools, and even churches are by and large non-inclusive and do not reflect unity and diversity in our City.  But the crowds at Fedex Forum for a Grizz game do.  We are all there, black folks and white folks, rich folks in the expensive seats at courtside, working folks in the upper decks.  We are united in our love for the Grizz and our hatred of the Warriors.  

The Grizzlies reflect the spirit of our City (Grit and Grind!), and even the chips on our collective shoulders.  “Us against err body!”  When rapper Al Kapone appears on the court at the start of the 4th quarter, we sing together even though most of us don’t know the words to “Whoop That Trick.”  From what I understand, it’s probably good for me that I don’t know the words.  

For over 20 basketball seasons, we Grizz fans have embraced our hometown heroes, and we have had wonderful ones from Shane Battier and Pao Gasol to Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony “The Grindfather” Allen.  

In 2019 we found someone who appeared destined to be the greatest Grizzly of them all, Ja Morant.  He was NBA Rookie of the Year in 2020.  His play on the court was electrifying.  We honestly believed he could lead us to the promised land, an NBA championship.  And he won fans not only here in Memphis but across the nation as reflected by many folks wearing his No. 12 jersey in arenas, even on road games.  

And in the ultimate accolade for an NBA superstar, he got his own shoe, the Nike Ja 1.  

But unfortunately, he has now become known, not for his shoes, but for his guns.  In February, he appeared not only playing basketball on TNT but also dancing with a gun on Instagram.  We live in a gun-crazy nation where a Tennessee Congressman sent out Christmas cards last December showing his family armed like soldiers.  Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men, and AK-15s!  But Ja’s first appearance on “Dancing with Guns” broadcast from a strip club in Denver got him a brief eight game suspension by the NBA.  

Ja entered a counseling program in Florida getting something called Reilki where he said he was “doing anxiety breathing and different stuff to help me release all that stuff from my body.” 

The treatment did not last long.  When his suspension ended, he returned to Memphis and announced he had recovered.  Most Grizz fans felt he had recovered as reflected by the fact that he was scoring points again on the basketball court.  

When he returned to Fedex Forum he had a new theme song, “It’s a Parade Inside My City” by his favorite rapper, NBA Youngboy.  Ja sang it as he was interviewed after games, and in one of those interviews, he even had his little girl sing it.  

Most of us Grizz fans did not know the lyrics to “It’s A Parade Inside My City” anymore than we knew the lyrics to “Whoop That Trick.”  We should have listened to the lyrics to “It’s A Parade Inside My City” because they clearly indicated that Ja had not recovered.  

“It’s A Parade Inside My City” is a song about a “pistol totin’ kid” who “got that iron right by my belt” and “will spray the whole crowd using my aim.”  

That’s right.  Ja came back from his suspension and treatment singing the praises of a kid with a gun ready to shoot in a crowd. 

And this last weekend he made a second appearance on Instagram flashing a gun while he cruised the streets of Memphis with his friend Davonte Park.  

The Grizzlies have suspended him again “from team activities” which means nothing in the off season.  But the NBA is investigating the situation and may soon suspend him from many games next season.  

What Ja did on his second Instagram appearance is not illegal in Tennessee, “an open carry” state where we can all pack heat as we drive or post for Christmas cards.  But the parade in Ja’s city is one of weapons recklessly flaunted.  It is a parade we see all too often in Memphis, a gun-filled City with many violent crimes.  

Ja needs help and something more intense than a few days of breathing treatments.  He needs a long suspension, and an intervention by the Grizzlies to see he gets the help he desperately needs.  

I am cheering for him again, not as he races across the court at the Fedex Forum, but as he tries to pull his life together, which I hope and pray he will. 

We need a parade inside our City.  Not a parade celebrating the Grizzlies winning an NBA championship, although that would be wonderful.  We need a parade of hometown heroes who are role models for our young people and all of us in making Memphis a safer place with the spirit and unity we have witnessed at Grizzly games for over 20 years.  

I hope Ja can recover and lead that parade. 

Posted by Bill Haltom at 11:01