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Nobody’s opinion about anything involving the game of basketball carries more weight in the city of Memphis than Penny Hardaway’s. The head coach of the Memphis Tigers knows exactly what it’s like being a young star in the NBA, but unlike today’s young superstars like Ja Morant, Hardaway didn’t have the added burden of social media.
Hardaway, a four-time NBA All-Star, believes that social media is to blame for some of Morant’s recent antics, which include flashing a gun during an early-morning Instagram Live stream in Glendale, Colorado.
“I [don’t] think people understand how hard it is for young guys in the NBA with social media and so much stuff going on,” Hardaway said on Tuesday, according to the Commercial Appeal. “It’s tough. You need a great support system. He’s gonna have a great support system now, because everybody’s rallying around him. But it is tough, you know, you’re 21, 22, 23 years old making millions of dollars. You know, social media is so crazy now. It’s difficult.”
“We’re all praying for Ja. I’m here for Ja,” Hardaway said.
While there is no denying that social media is an added pressure for Morant, it’s an added pressure for every other young person around the world as well, and the vast majority aren’t flashing a gun on Instagram.
Morant is also the only 23-year-old flashing a gun on social media who is the face of an NBA franchise, who signed a $193 million contract, and has a signature shoe with Nike set to be released in just a few weeks.
READ: JA MORANT NEEDS TO DROP THE TOUGH GUY ACT, FOR HIMSELF AND FOR THE CITY OF MEMPHIS: MARK HARRIS
While Hardaway’s message is genuine, his thought about social media sounds like more of an excuse for Morant’s behavior than a distraction.
Morant is under police investigation following his stunt with a firearm on Instagram Live. It has also been reported that the Grizzlies held a players-only team meeting about having better discipline while on road trips shortly before Morant went out to an alleged strip club where he filmed the video.
The gun video also came just days after The Washington Post reported that Morant allegedly threatened a teenager with a gun last summer, the same one he is alleged to have punched during a pick-up game outside of his Tennessee home.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris