Ja Morant has been on a different level this year when it comes to both his performance, and his athleticism, even rivaling LeBron James at times.
The Memphis Grizzlies have taken an astronomical leap in their play this year. Going from a fringe playoff team last year to now the 4th seed in the competitive Western Conference, you can see just how much they’ve truly improved from a year ago.
Everyone has bought into head coach Taylor Jenkins’ system, and now, there’s no looking back for this team. They truly believe they can compete with the elite teams in they league, and they’ve been proving it as well.
Just take a look at their most recent game. They beat the 2nd place Golden State Warriors, who just got Klay Thompson back mind you, 116-108 behind a strong 4th quarter in which they outscored GSW 29-18. Ja Morant’s play has been the catalyst behind this resurgence, and it’d be a surprise if the young guard didn’t make the All Star game.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 12, 2022
Skip Bayless compares Ja Morant to LeBron James after hyper-athletic block
Ja Morant’s season can be summed up with one highlight play. Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Morant showed off what has made him such an exciting player to watch this year, showcasing the athleticism we’ve become used to seeing from him. However, even this play was something else entirely.
JA MORANT CLIMBING TO THE HEAVENS FOR THIS BLOCK.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) January 10, 2022
Yeah, he really did that. It was as shocking then, in real time, as it is now. The Grizzlies would also go on to win that game 127-119, fueled by Morant’s block. While that block was something special and certainly isn’t something you’re going to see from anyone anytime soon, how does it rank compared to other blocks in NBA history?
Well, the one block that everyone is comparing it to now is LeBron James’ iconic block in the 2016 Finals when he denied Andre Iguodala at the rim in game 7. If you need a quick refresher, here’s that block:
2016 #NBAFinals Game 7.
Tied at 89-89 under 2 minutes. @KingJames recovers from 20.8 feet away & elevates 12.2 feet for the CLUTCH chasedown block. #NBABlockWeek #NBABreakdown pic.twitter.com/15ClOczaEf
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) August 20, 2019
Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe debated which block deserved more praise, and surprise surprise, Bayless picked Morant’s. He claimed that it was more impressive because the Grizzlies star had to recover after his own turnover, something LeBron didn’t have to do.
.@RealSkipBayless is more impressed with Ja Morant's block than LeBron's in Game 7 vs the Warriors:
"The beauty of Ja's block was that it came from his turnover and he had to undo that. Not only did he undo it, he blocked it to himself." pic.twitter.com/9ywaonuVEd
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) January 12, 2022
Bayless’ claim is definitely controversial. Sure, Morant’s block may have been more athletic, and when you analyze both plays out of context, Morant’s was perhaps the more impressive one in terms of how great it looked and just how high he had to jump to trap that ball.
However, LeBron had to sprint all the way down from the other side of the court to track Iguodala down, timing his jump at the exact moment the Warriors forward went up for the layup. That’s equally as difficult as what Morant had to do, if not more.
Additionally, context does matter. LeBron’s block essentially won the Finals for the Cavs, one in which they had to come back from a 3-1 deficit. That block contributed to NBA history. Morant’s block will go down as another all-time regular season play but nothing more. Thus, picking against LeBron’s Finals block is surprising and kind of hard to do.