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Yes Morant is going viral – the face of the NBA could be next

Yes, Morant, playing basketball like he’s on a trampoline, could bounce so high his ceiling becomes the tallest player alive.

Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies will appear on national television five times over the next three weeks – twice each on TNT and NBATV and once on ESPN.

Grizzlies-Celtics were switched to TNT in place of Nets-Heat Thursday night amid a torrid stretch of exciting games in which Morant has set NBA social media records. It’s easy to imagine that he could be the next face of the NBA.

“The ceiling for a guy like that would be as high as it gets – the best player in the league,” Stan Van Gundy, who is calling Thursday’s game for TNT, told The Post.

Yes Morant could be the next face of the NBA.
Yes Morant could be the next face of the NBA.
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“He’s in the top league of boys at the moment. The best player in the world would certainly be his blanket.”

Sometimes not getting what you want can be for the best.

In the 2019 NBA draft lottery, there was a viral video of Pelicans sales and marketing staff going insane over Zion Williamson winning the lottery.

On the other side of the coin, Grizzlies fans were heartbroken at losing what was considered a one-time phenomenon.

Morant ended up being a consolation prize. In many cases, availability is the best skill, and that’s one of the biggest differences between Morant and Williamson.

“Apparently Ja just did played a lot more games so he made a bigger impact and the team thrived,” said Van Gundy, who coached Williamson and the Pelicans last season.

“Zion only played 24 games in his rookie season, 61 games last year and yet to play this season. There was no question who had the bigger impact and it was basically health. But it’s very, very early. Zion didn’t exactly fight when he played. He averaged over 27 points per game last year and shot over 60 percent. It was just a health thing that made the difference between them and Ja is having an incredible year now.”

Earlier this week, Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd sparked a bit of controversy in NBA circles when he said he was “very skeptical” of “bouncy, athletic” guards like Morant, naming Derrick Rose, John Wall and Russell Westbrook, like other explosive players who do, did not ultimately win a championship.

“The guys who knock your socks off, the little guys who drive to the basket because they’re not great shooters, don’t last long,” Cowherd said.

“[O]hh colin”, Morant answered on twitter.

Van Gundy disputed the notion that Morant was destined to curtail his career through injury.

“Listen, I don’t think you can judge that [his explosiveness]’ said Van Gundy. “Probably the best comparison for him in terms of playstyle and athleticism is Derrick Rose and he ended up injured badly and that’s where people go.

“But Michael Jordan was one of the most explosive people to ever come into the league and he’s played every game, every year, big minutes – and he’s been fine. I don’t know if you can just say, “Well, the explosive guys are more prone to injury.” But there were a lot of explosive guys who weren’t injury prone, and being the Memphis Grizzlies, I’m not really worried about that right now.

Morant defies gravity and has become a social media sensation. He had an absurd posterization dunk against the Spurs on Monday, followed by a first-half buzzer-beater with no immediate highlight to think of.

On Wednesday, the NBA announced that Morant’s buzzer-beater has racked up 42.1 million views on Instagram, the most viewed video on that platform in league history. It has since grown to over 50 million views.

TV viewership is also increasing for Grizzlies games. According to Nielsen ratings, the Grizzlies have averaged 841,000 viewers in seven games on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV, a 42 percent increase compared to the first seven Grizzlies games on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV last season. If you take NBA TV out of the equation, its games on ESPN and TNT average 1.11 million viewers, up 12 percent year over year.

Local ratings in Memphis for the team’s first 56 games are up 13 percent year-over-year and 157 percent from two years ago.

The Grizzlies are 43-20, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference. They were 60/1 odds to win the West earlier this season and are now at 10/1 to reach the NBA Finals. Morant was 45/1 to win NBA preseason MVP and now he’s 10/1, behind only Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Grizzlies have good chemistry and seem to really enjoy playing with each other.

Sophomore forward Desmond Bane shoots over 43 percent from 3-point range. Jaren Jackson has emerged as one of the best defensemen in the league, second in blocks per game in the NBA to Rudy Gobert.

Yes Morant
Yes Morant advocates becoming an NBA MVP.
Getty Images

Tyus Jones was one of the best backup point guards in the NBA, which helped significantly as Morant missed 14 games and the Grizzlies went 12-2. Steven Adams was a great acquisition; The Grizzlies parted ways with star rebounder Jonas Valanciunas for Adams, who puts up sturdy screens and has helped the team with his passing.

His popularity suggests it doesn’t seem to matter that Morant plays in one of the NBA’s smallest markets.

It’s an interesting question how important market size in esports still is in terms of marketability for individual athletes. LeBron James had no problem getting massive engagement from Cleveland on each of his stops there. Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are doing well in the attention departments of Green Bay and Kansas City.

Yes Morant
Yes Morant made the Grizzlies competitors.
Getty Images

Is it an anachronism that a star still needs to play in a big market like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago to get maximum exposure?

“In terms of marketability, I think you can come from anywhere now,” Van Gundy said. “Everything is tight not only in the country, but worldwide. We are in a time where it doesn’t matter where you are.”

Van Gundy noted that Memphis has a smaller local fan base than, say, the Knicks or Lakers, but it’s not a huge inhibitor for national marketing purposes.

“Now there may be times when other considerations come into play,” he said. “People made a lot of the fact that LeBron James had business interests in Los Angeles as one of the reasons he wanted to go there. There are certain cities where certain people will be more attractive. But as far as marketing a player, I don’t think it matters where you are at the moment.”

https://nypost.com/2022/03/03/ja-morant-keeps-going-viral-being-the-face-of-nba-could-be-next/ Yes Morant is going viral – the face of the NBA could be next

JOE HERNANDEZ

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