There are few stories in the NBA more compelling than that of Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant. Just a few years ago, Morant was an unranked high school basketball player that had been overlooked by most college recruiters. Attending Murray State in rural Kentucky, Morant propelled the school’s basketball program, catching the eyes of NBA scouts. By the end of his sophomore season, he had declared for the NBA draft. What followed was a second overall draft selection, an NBA Rookie of the Year award, and instant notoriety.
But what was this experience like for Ja Morant himself?
Next month fans will be able to get a first-hand look at Morant’s incredible rookie season with the release of the all new docuseries Promise Land. The show follows Morant as he navigates both the NBA and his newfound fame.
“I wanted the experience of what it really feels like the first time you’re about to step on the floor of the NBA” says Promise Land Director Dexton Deboree “You’re a kid, just like every other 19 year old kid on the planet, and then tomorrow as soon as you play your first NBA game that all goes away.”
Deboree, who also directed the Air Jordan documentary Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1, got to work with Morant and his team immediately following the 2019 NBA Draft. Before production even began, Deboree was pretty confident he was about to witness basketball greatness, “I was at a very strong inclination that he was going to prove everyone wrong and crush it. That is what I thought would happen.”
While those inclinations would prove true, it became clear Morant was much more than a generational basketball talent, he was a man of character. “There were never any cracks in the surface,” says Deboree. “He is genuinely a good person, he’s honest, he’s filled with integrity, he’s a man of faith, he really, really is devoted and loyal to his family.”
To Deboree, Morant exemplifies the differences between this generation’s top NBA talent and that of the past. Rather than it being about “me” like the flashy basketball stars of the 90s, Morant was more focused on “us”. Morant wasn’t just concerned about his own wellbeing, he was focused on the success of his friends and community as well.
The director hopes the series can inspire viewers as well as help to dispel stereotypes. “I think we see far too many stories of young black men that are sort of represented in a certain way,” he says. “We need more positive examples of stories that counterbalance all the bullshit that is going on.”
With the series release just around the corner, basketball fans can expect an entirely new perspective on Ja Morant as both a basketball player and an individual. “For someone to be that talented on the court but not egotistical, not think he’s better than everybody else,” Deboree says. “Those character traits don’t usually align with celebrity and fame.”
Promise Land premieres June 3rd on Crackle.