After three seasons in the league, Ja Morant has undeniably grown his fanbase. Some were dazzled by Morant's incredible skills and became fans. Others were already following him since his University of Memphis days, in which NBA legend Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway mentored him.
Many have seen shades of Philadelphia 76ers Allen Iverson on Morant's game; however, Hardaway took him under his wing early on in his life.
Grateful to have Penny
Hardaway was appointed as the Memphis Tigers men's basketball team's new head coach in 2018. At the time, Morant, who was in his last year with the team, had the opportunity to spend some time with the former Orlando Magic star.
In the 2019 NBA Draft, the Grizzlies drafted Morant as the second overall pick in that year's crop of college hoopers. Ahead of his NBA debut, the South Carolina native did not fail to acknowledge the significance of Hardaway's influence in his soaring career.
Ja Morant Is Grateful To Have Penny Hardaway As His 'Mentor'"Just having him and (assistant coach) Mike Miller take me under their wing to be a mentor for me is good," Morant told Commercial Appeal of Hardaway.
Morant is perfect for Memphis
The relationship between Hardaway and Morant did not end inside the basketball court. In their brief time together, the four-time NBA All-Star managed to get to know more about Morant as a person.
According to Hardaway, Morant was on course to achieving greater things in the sport because he chose to stay in the "right city" - Memphis.
"Just having him here and understanding his story, him coming out of nowhere, and grinding really hard to get to where he is now, he's in the right city," Hardaway said of Morant in 2019 via Commercial Appeal.
As it turned out, Hardaway was right about Morant. After three seasons with the Grizzlies, Morant made his first NBA All-Star appearance and has become one of the league's top scorers, finishing the 2021-22 regular season with 27.4 points per game, leading the Grizzlies to the second place in the western conference.
What's even more worth noting, the 22-year-old reached incredible milestones this past regular season. In just one week, Morant recorded and broke his own franchise record in points.
After racking 46 points in the Grizzlies' 116-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls on February 27, Morant picked up where he left off and dropped 52 points in the team's 118-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs two days later.