May 19, 2024


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A judge in Tennessee ruled that Grizzlies player Ja Morant acted in self-defense in an altercation with a teenager

A judge in Tennessee ruled that Grizzlies player Ja Morant acted in self-defense in an altercation with a teenager

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant received a favorable ruling this week from the Shelby County (Tenn.) District Court judge overseeing the lawsuit brought against him by Joshua Holloway. The judge entered an order Tuesday stating that Morant was acting in self-defense in 2022 when he punched Holloway, then 17, in the face during a pick-up game at his home in Tennessee.

Holloway filed a civil suit against Morant last year, but that ruling, the judge continued, gives Morant a “presumption of civil immunity” in the suit and shifts the burden of proof to Holloway to show that Morant should bear civil liability.

The altercation between Morant and Holloway came after several hours of pickup games at Morant's house. Holloway was a regular at Morant's house, and it appeared he was there, initially, at the invitation of Morant's younger sister before he struck up a relationship with the Grizzlies star. The court heard testimony from nine witnesses in December to understand how and why the incident between Morant and Holloway occurred.

Holloway, Morant, his father Ty Morant, his sister Tenia, his friend Davonte Buck and former NBA veteran and current agent Mike Miller were among those who testified.

Judge Carol Chumney then settled on a timeline of events that she used to make her decision. The situation between Holloway and Morant began to escalate when, Chumney wrote in her filing, Holloway placed a basketball at Morant's feet as a means of checking the ball to start the game rather than passing it to him.

“Morant, the other players, and spectators alike viewed the move as disrespectful,” Chumney wrote in the filing. “Mr. Morant told the plaintiff as much — “that was disrespectful” — and turned the ball back to the plaintiff. At this point, the plaintiff will not check the ball. Keep the ball sitting down. Then he kicked the ball. There they were kicking the ball back and forth, rolling the ball. The ball went to the fence, to the other end of the field because no one caught it.

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“Plaintiff responded by giving the ball back to Mr. Morant, and this exchange continued for a while. Eventually, though, to the exasperation of the other players, Mr. Morant picked up the ball and passed it with his chest to Plaintiff. Instead of 'checking' to see if his team was ready, The plaintiff immediately returned the ball to Mr. Morant, striking Mr. Morant in the face.

The ball hit Morant in the mouth and knocked his head back, according to Chumney's description.

“The plaintiff did not apologize or give any indication that striking Mr. Morant in the face was wrong. Mr. Morant responded by asking the plaintiff, ‘What are you doing?’ meaning ‘what did you do’ or ‘why are you doing that?’ The players and other spectators understood this meaning The plaintiff did not respond verbally to Morant's question.

He did not say any threatening words at that time. But the plaintiff's response was nonverbal: He pulled up his shorts.

The move was taken as a sign of Holloway's desire to fight, Chumney wrote, citing testimony from six witnesses who described this intention. Morant and Holloway then advanced toward each other and ended up in a chest-to-chest confrontation before Holloway collided with Morant with his shoulder and once again prepared to fight, Chumney wrote.

“Morant has taken a step back,” Chumney’s filing said. “Holloway pulled up his trousers again and stepped forward. Mr Morant took these actions to mean that the plaintiff was about to strike him. He responded with a single punch to protect himself. The plaintiff stumbled backwards but then gathered himself, raised his guard and stepped forward again. Mr Buck then responded With one punch.The plaintiff fell to the ground when Mr. Buck struck him, and Mr. Buck immediately began to drag Mr. Morant away.

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Chumney declared that Morant's response was sufficient for her to determine that he acted fairly in self-defense under Tennessee law and that the use of force was justified.

(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)