By Mark Giannotto, Memphis Commercial Appeal
(Source USA Today):
(Photo credit: Internet Photo)
Ja Morant was squatting on the court when the first Memphis Grizzlies win in 11 days was finally over, and Jaren Jackson Jr. bent over to embrace him.
Of all the images and actions that made clear Sunday was not a normal home game at FedExForum, this felt like an especially important one. Here were the two faces of this franchise physically and emotionally spent, just like the city they represent.
“We needed it, Morant said simply, and of course he was talking about more than the 19-point comeback he and Jackson had just spearheaded against the Indiana Pacers.
But there is no neat and easy way to discuss all this, to connect a sporting event or an NBA team to the disgusting and disturbing way in which Tyre Nichols was killed at the hands of Memphis police officers earlier this month. The end of the Grizzlies’ five-game losing streak is not going to change how Nichols’ life ended, nor is it going to change the systemic issues of police brutality that surfaced yet again.
To suggest otherwise would ignore reality at the moment. It would diminish the trauma these past few weeks, and particularly the past few days, have caused for so many.
As the Grizzlies took the court, protests were happening across the city for a third straight day. A moment of silence for Nichols punctuated a somber pregame scene. The coaches and players were still grappling with what they saw in that video – “I couldn’t even make it through,” Morant admitted – and what their responsibility is moving forward.
They were just like so many of us trying to sift through something like this happening where we live. And yet they are also nothing like us, thanks to what they can do on a basketball court, and perhaps that’s why I refuse to dismiss the power of sports as a mere cliché in this moment.
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