Ja Morant returned to play for the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 19, 2023. This was after a 25-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. His return was much anticipated because up until that point, the Grizzlies’ performance was at best, forgettable. To say that Morant was conspicuous by his absence would be an understatement. But it was necessary after several transgressions. Thankfully, Morant is back! And many of us are glad to see him do what he does best.

I can be critical of sports figures in this column at times. It’s all really in the spirit of uplifting the optics of our people, as well as demanding more from each of us. But in the lead-up to Morant’s return, you sense that he understands the errors of his ways. You have to be able to appreciate that after he received the scrutiny that he did. But not only was he contrite upon his return, but he returned with a vengeance.

Upon Morant’s return, the Grizzlies went on an immediate four-game winning streak. Since his return, the Grizzlies are 5-3 as of this writing. It’s a clear improvement, even as Morant was compromised recently while dealing with an illness. Nonetheless, in sports, there’s a term that says “winning cures everything.” With superb play, Morant has been able to let his past errors continue to be just that: the past.

Narratives can change when you apply yourself this way to whatever your chosen craft is. But beyond that, when you can put your ego aside, and own where you fell short, it takes a weight off of you. You now have freed yourself up to take the time to go ahead and be your best self again. I think that Morant’s comeback will serve as a great example for those who may have career missteps after him.

Now, I’m in no way the morality police. But I do believe that the onus is on ourselves as Black people to challenge each other to be more conscious of who we are and what we want to represent in this world. It’s completely plausible for a young Black athlete to not have sight of that at a young age. But I do appreciate when they begin to realize the bigger picture. It’s not the most ideal scenario, but neither is being Black in this country. It takes that awareness and effort to continue to help improve the systems, and conditions at play that we live with.

If more people constructively received criticism the way that Morant ultimately has, many more athletes would be better off. He deserves credit for when he does right. That’s especially the case when we’re as vociferous when he or others do wrong. Here’s to a productive rest of the season for the “Grizz,” and maybe a play-in/playoff appearance? Time will tell, especially if “Ja” has anything to do with it.