After serving an eight-game suspension for conduct harmful to the league, Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant made his long-awaited return to the court against the Houston Rockets on March 22, 2023. Ja came off the bench for the first time in his career, receiving a loud ovation when he checked in late in the first quarter.
While most fans were eager to see him back in action, others were confused by the two-time NBA All-Star's appearance. Since returning, Ja has been donning a black mask on the court — why is that? Keep reading to find out.
Why is Ja Morant wearing a mask?
Ja hasn't played in weeks, so why is he suddenly wearing a mask on the court? Well, as it turns out, the 23-year-old superstar guard reportedly suffered a nasal fracture in a game against the Rockets prior to his suspension.
He first wore a mask during the Grizzlies' game against the Denver Nuggets on March 3, which just so happened to be the last game he played before his suspension. Despite the injury occurring early in the month, Ja is still dealing with pain because he's still wearing a mask — or the Grizzlies are being cautious and want Ja to wear a mask to ensure he doesn't miss any more time.
However, during the Grizzlies' 141-132 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, March 29, Ja didn't finish the game with the mask — why is that? During the postgame press conference, he told reporters he took the mask off because "the sweat was coming down, [and] it was tough to dry it out during the game."
Ja added that since he finished the game without the mask, he won't be needing it anymore.
Ja Morant was previously suspended for brandishing a firearm on social media.
On March 4, just hours after a loss to the Nuggets, the athlete headed to a Colorado nightclub — there, he flashed a gun on an Instagram Live video. The NBA swiftly launched an investigation, and the Grizzlies announced that Ja would be away from the team for several games. Ja then checked himself into a rehabilitation center in Florida.
A little over a week later, he met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and several other top NBA executives. The league then announced they had suspended Ja for eight games without pay for the incident: "Ja's conduct was irresponsible, reckless, and potentially very dangerous. It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him," Adam said in a press release.
Adam continued, "He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for his behavior. Ja has also made it clear to me that he has learned from this incident and that he understands his obligations and responsibility to the Memphis Grizzlies and the broader NBA community extend well beyond his play on the court."
The investigation concluded that the firearm did not belong to Ja, and he did not carry it with him on the team plane.