Zach Randolph explains why Ja Morant is perfect to carry the torch in Memphis
Zach Randolph was once the hero of a team whose reputation as an underdog has long been known in the league. The Memphis Grizzlies had his jersey number (No.50) retired and he was the franchise’s all-time leader in field goals and rebounds.
It’s no surprise that Z-Bo would set eyes on the new rookie on the block — one that made sports headlines all over the world abuzz in particular. After all, Ja Morant’s insane dunking and explosive playmaking on the court propelled his reputation as one of the most promising young players in the league and got the Grizzlies the spotlight again.
In a Bleacher Report feature, the Grizzly icon shared his fondness for the young 6-foot-3 guard
“He’s just like me. Blue-collar player. Honest. Humble. Heart like a giant. He gives back. The people of Memphis see that Ja is just like them, too: a hard worker, where nothing’s been given to him.”
Randolph recognized that Morant is all about breaking expectations. Coming from the small town of Dalzell in South Carolina, it was an unlikely formula to become an NBA superstar. According to Murray State assistant coach Casey Long, the rookie thrives when expectations are set against him.
Many have crossed out the Grizzlies’ chances for this season’s title even as the season resumes, but perhaps that’s why Randolph believes that the Memphis-Morant connection was a match-made-in-heaven.
“This city is the best place for him. For his personality,” Randolph says.
Randolph led the Grizzlies’ in a bid to overthrow the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference play-offs. So it takes one underdog legend to know one and Randolph sees only greatness in Morant’s future.
“The sky is the limit for Ja. I just love his leadership. The thing he’s accomplished already, being a franchise player, leading this team as a rookie.”
The former franchise player who once filled up the empty seats at the FedEx Forum also lauded Morant’s magnetism with his fans, “Half the gym be Murray State fans.”
In his 17-year tenure in the NBA since being drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers, Randolph played with many teams namely the Knicks, Clippers, Kings, with his most memorable eight seasons with the Grizzlies.
With his Grit and Grind years long behind him, Randolph stays positive with the ball club’s future in the league, especially with Morant’s leadership. “The future is bright for these young Grizzlies,” he says. “I think as an organization, we’re headed in the right direction.