Ja Morant is the latest installment of a long line of Memphis players who have made names for themselves with their high-flying, highlight reel plays. The Tennessee product has been wowing crowds outside and inside FedExForum this season, leading to his recent first round selection in the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Ja Morant's Road to Highlight-Reel Blocks and Dunks Started With Tractor Tires and Wooden Planks

The majority of the NBA’s best scorers were big-time high school prospects. In 2006, Kevin Durant was ranked No. 2 in the nation, while LeBron James was ranked No. 1 in 2003. In 2013, even Zach LaVine was a four-star prospect who ranked in the top 55 nationally.

However, point guard Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t get the same treatment. He didn’t have any stars next to his name, and none of the major national recruiting organizations even considered him one of the top 2017 prospects.

He’s since developed into one of the NBA’s most explosive guards, and it all began with tractor tires and wooden boards.

After graduating from high school as an unranked recruit, Ja Morant went on to thrive at Murray State.

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Marvin Bagley, Michael Porter Jr., Mo Bamba, Deandre Ayton, and Collin Sexton were all on the radar for the major schools in 2017. No one was paying attention to Ja Morant, the South Carolina guard.

Morant chose Murray State over a larger school in part because an assistant coach saw him play while on his way to a snack bar. During his tenure there, though, he rose to prominence.

As a rookie, he led the Racers to a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament by averaging 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. During his sophomore season, though, he truly took the country by storm.

Morant led Murray State to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19, averaging 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 10.0 assists. His agility enabled him to score anytime he pleased, but his talents also allowed him to locate open teammates in perfect situations. With multiple highlight-reel dunks, he became a regular on SportsCenter that year.

Morant’s skill set and athleticism sent him to the top of every NBA Draft big board. Many of the greatest 2018 high school talents, such as R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Nassir Little, were beaten out by him.

Morant was subsequently taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Zion Williamson, a former five-star recruit, was the only player picked ahead of him.

Morant’s career is now soaring in the NBA, with a new acrobatic dunk or outrageous block going viral on Twitter virtually every night. But it was in South Carolina that he began his ascent to the top.

Ja’s ferocity started with a set of tractor tires.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant during a game against the Trail Blazers in 2021.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant during a game against the Trail Blazers in 2021. On April 25, 2021, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers. | Getty Images/Steph Chambers

Tee Morant, Ja Morant’s father, reared him mostly around basketball. Tee was a high school teammate of Ray Allen before going on to compete at the university level.

As a result, Ja’s father began training him in the backyard when he was a child.

Tee had his kid practice separation exercises to aid with his being undersized, according to a 2019 report in the Courier Journal. He also showed Ja how to create step-back jumpers and had him undertake resistance training and parachute exercises to develop his strength and agility.

But he didn’t stop there.

In the Courier Journal, Justin Sayers said, “He also purchased tractor tires and had Ja practice leaping with a gentle landing.” “After a few months, he needed to purchase wooden boards to raise them.”

All of your hard work paid off. Morant started dunks as a senior in high school and hasn’t looked back since. He’s now one of the league’s most athletic guards, and his eventual growth surge (Ja stands at 6 feet, 3 inches) has enabled him to compete with anybody in the game. He has developed into one of the greatest guards on the planet.

Since then, Ja Morant has blossomed into a star for the Memphis Grizzlies.

It now seems absurd that anybody could ever ignore Ja Morant. Did the scouts notice his physical prowess? He’s probably able to leap over a few tractor tires now.

Morant’s speed makes him tough to stop in transition, in addition to his incredible vertical. His playmaking abilities also enable him to finish near the basket or find open teammates with ease.

Ja had a fantastic debut season, averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists, and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. In his second season, he capitalized on that accomplishment by leading Memphis to the playoffs, before becoming a legitimate MVP contender in 2021-22.

Morant, who has been compared to Kobe Bryant by Shaquille O’Neal, is averaging 24.7 points, 6.9 assists, and a career-high 5.8 rebounds through 34 games this season. He’s also shooting 48.5 percent from the field, which is a career high, and has improved his outside shooting, converting 35.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. His ascension has elevated the Grizzlies to one of the best teams in the Western Conference, with a chance to challenge for an NBA championship.

Morant was an overlooked youngster who utilized tractor tires to help develop his jumping ability before he was all over your timeline with his rim-shattering dunks. He’s now one of basketball’s top names.

We’re all delighted he’s here now, despite his unusual road to the NBA.

Basketball Reference and Sports Reference provided the stats; 247 Sports provided the recruiting information.

RELATED: Ja Morant Is Quietly Establishing Himself as the NBA’s Best Point Guard

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