Ja Morant’s celebration vs. Pelicans, explained: Grizzlies star channels LSU’s Malik Nabers and ties to New Orleans

With Ja Morant back in uniform, the vibes are incredibly high with the Grizzlies.

Since Morant’s return from a league-mandated 25-game suspension, Memphis has won four consecutive games, two of which have come in New Orleans. To bring the streak to four games, Morant punctuated a 31-point performance with an alley-oop finish, followed by a celebration that quickly made the rounds on social media.

While some have construed Morant’s celebration of choice as controversial, it was an homage to the locale in which he was playing, given its ties to New Orleans and Louisiana. Here’s a breakdown.

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Ja Morant’s celebration vs. Pelicans, explained

The rare point guard-to-point guard alley-oop from Marcus Smart to Morant effectively iced the Grizzlies’ win as it gave Memphis a six-point lead with under 15 seconds remaining. A courtside angle of the play captured by Memphis included the finish and Morant’s celebration.

Many immediately singled out Morant’s dance, specifically the part in which he appeared to be celebrating by pointing finger guns, which would be a problematic choice given his recent suspensions for social media incidents involving the brandishment of firearms.

Those who recognized Morant’s celebration, however, were able to draw a parallel between him, LSU standout wide receiver Malik Nabers and New Orleans-based entertainer Subtweet Shawn.

Here’s Nabers employing something similar to the first half of Morant’s dance after scoring a touchdown during a legendary performance against Arkansas:

And here’s Subtweet Shawn with the second half of Morant’s dance:

Morant, clearly having some fun with the fans in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, even took to X to repost Nabers’ celebration and quoted a post from his trainer, former LSU athlete Mo Wells, by saying, “you gotta rock ya hips,” which can be heard in the above song from Subtweet Shawn.

Wells is just one of a few members of Team Morant with Louisiana ties, suggesting that Morant’s choice to use moves that originated in the Big Easy was all in good fun, especially when used after defeating the team that passed over him in the 2019 draft.

And his father, Tee, got in on the dancing fun.

More importantly, the Grizzlies’ streak with Morant moves them to 10-19 on the season and within five games of the West’s final Play-In Tournament spot with over 50 games remaining in the season.

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Similar to how Morant saved Memphis by leading a comeback in his first game back on the floor, he may very well save its season, too. 

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