Ja Morant was born Temetrius Jamel “Ja” Morant on August 10, 1999, to Tee and Jamie Morant. He and his younger sister Teniya grew up in Dalzell, a small town in Sumter County, South Carolina. The Memphis Grizzlies star is still very close with his family, and he is a father to Kaari Jaidyn Morant, who was born on August 7, 2019.
Here’s what you need to know about Ja Morant’s family:
1. Ja Morant’s Father Is Tee Morant, Who Played College Basketball But Changed His Career Plans When His Son Was Born
Morant’s father, Tee Morant, also grew up playing basketball and played with future Hall of Famer Ray Allen at Hillcrest High School in Dalzell. They won the state championship in the 1992-93 season, according to Sports Illustrated. Tee Morant then attended Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and played on the basketball team.
He graduated in 1998 and then attended an NBA camp but was told he wasn’t tall enough for what teams were looking for. He joined a semi-pro team in Colombia, the Athletic reported, but there were issues with the players’ salaries and he didn’t stay long in South America. When Tee Morant was contemplating his next move, he learned that Jamie Morant was pregnant with their son and that changed everything.
Tee Morant decided to settle down for good in Dalzell to raise his son and began working as a barber. He quickly became Morant’s trainer as well and said it was obvious that his son was obsessed with basketball even as a toddler. He began playing with his boy on their backyard court when Morant was just three years old. “If there was a ball bouncing, he wanted to be around it,” Morant Sr. told Sports Illustrated.
His father’s story was a big inspiration for Morant as he told reporters at the 2019 NBA Combine that he was more inspired by his father than any other basketball player. “I really didn’t have any players inspire me,” Morant said. “It’s the situation with my dad. He had the opportunity to play professional basketball and he gave it up when my mom called and said she was pregnant with me. Instead of going to play, he stayed to raise me. So that’s my motivation. I’m living my dream and his dream through me right now.”
“My dad trained me my whole life, so, that’s where we get our connection,” Morant told Andscape. “Then once I got old enough to actually know, like, what he was doing with some of the stuff he did, I realized that it helped me.”
Tee Morant always believed in his son as well, and that it would only be a matter of time until his boy got noticed by a coach or a scout, he told Sports Illustrated. He did what he could, filming the games with a GoPro camera to have highlights ready at any time. It wasn’t always easy though, as he said, “We always felt like we were handcuffed, pretty much cheating our son. Everybody else was getting accolades, but Ja was always the one left out.”
2. Ja Morant’s Mother, Jamie Morant, Played Basketball in High School & Collegiate Softball
Morant’s mother is Jamie Shanks Morant, a Georgia native who is also a former collegiate athlete. She met Tee Morant when they were both at Claflin University, where she graduated in 1999 with a bachelor of science in biology, the Memphis Flyer reported. Jamie Morant gave birth to her son just a few months after graduation.
Jamie Morant is a multi-sport athlete who excelled on the softball team and also played on the basketball team as a point guard in high school. She came from an athletic family, with a brother and father who were great baseball talents, she told the Athletic. “Everybody sleeps on Ja’s mama, not knowing she can ball too,” she joked.
In fact, she said her son didn’t believe that she played basketball. “We would go to Georgia and I would have to show him all of my awards and stuff,” she shared with Andscape. “Then it was, OK. He seen my point guard awards in shooting and all that. Then it was, OK. Now I can listen to her. Now she got it,” she joked.
She said Morant gets a lot of his athleticism from her, as well as his great understanding of the game. A point guard has to be a leader in the team and have mental strength, she told the Memphis Flyer.
In the Morants’ backyard, it was Tee Morant who was training their son, while Jamie Morant gave him advice and encouragement, especially his classic mantra of “beneath no one.” The Grizzlies star was excelling in high school but wasn’t getting noticed by colleges, and couldn’t help getting discouraged. “One day I said, ‘Son, at the end of the day the pressure is on these other players and not you,'” she recalled in her interview with the Memphis Flyer. “‘Play your game, you know what you can do, and guess what, you’re beneath no one!'”
She also shared that she wanted her children to grow up to be good people. “Be polite, respectful, don’t see color, focus on your education, set goals and focus on them, work hard for what you want. Give to others,” she added.
3. Ja Morant’s Father Put Him Through Intense Training Sessions in Their Backyard & He Sometimes Played With His Sister
Morant’s name is based on both of his parents’ names, with Temetrius in honor of his father Tee Morant while Jamel is a nod to his mother Jamie. The Grizzlies star is known as TJ in Georga when he visits his mother’s family while his friends in South Carolina call him Ja, the Athletic reported.
Morant was often coached by his father in the backyard of their home in Dalzell, a town he described as “a very small town, the country, a lot of woods,” he told Andscape. “But almost everybody around there know[s] each other. That’s why I’m a big family person,” he added.
Outside their one-story house, the family had a big set-up for Morant’s training session, often involving big tractor-trailer tires. Tee Morant set up the tires to help his son increase his jump height and explosiveness. He worked with his son on using his left hand for dribbling passing and shooting.
Around the court, the Morants set up plastic chairs and a grill, and there’d often be big crowds over to watch the pickup games that Morant Sr. set up. “I mean, he was probably 8 or 9 years old, [playing church league] then started AAU at 9,” Tee Morant told Andscape. “Then his teammates would come over and, you know, we’d train them on that and then as they grew as far as middle school, the court grew as well as far as extending it.”
Jamie Morant said it wasn’t all basketball when her son was growing up, though. He also liked football and baseball and loved dancing to Michael Jackson or Usher, she told the Memphis Flyer. However, she said as soon as he could hold the ball and dribble it, she could tell he would be a special player one day.
Morant grew up with a younger sister, Teniya “Niya” Morant, who often joined her brother and father in the backyard to practice basketball. Niya Morant is currently a senior at Houston High School near Memphis, where she plays as a point guard. In January 2023, she shared on social media that she got offered a scholarship at Division I school Mississippi Valley State University.
Jamie Morant said her son is very protective of his little sister and has “a heart of gold,” she told the Memphis Flyer. “He is a truly protective big brother and I know Niya wishes he and his dad would relax a little,” she laughed.
4. Ja Morant’s Parents Are Supportive of Him & His Father Addressed His March 2023 Suspension
Morant is still very close with his family to this day and his parents are often seen at his games. “You just can’t trust everybody,” he told Andscape. “And, I mean, I got my family who’s been around me my whole life so, I don’t need anybody new or anything. I’m big on having the right people around me, the right crowd.”
After Morant’s off-court problems and his suspension from the NBA in March 2023, he shared that he was disappointed at letting down his family. “It’s been even tougher on me because I know they raised me the right way,” he told ESPN’s Jalen Rose. “I know they did everything I asked of them and raised me and my little sister pretty much the right way. For me to be in the news for the wrong reasons, I know it hurt them but it hurt me even more because I feel like I let them down.”
His father, who wore a shirt with a caricature of his son and the word “redemption” on it at Morant’s first game back after the suspension, said he blamed himself for Morant’s actions. “I blame myself. Because that’s my son. When I say I will die for my kids, I will die for my kids. Now has the world thought about that or thought like that? Anything my kid does, I’m going to blame myself,” he told the Athletic.
When Morant came on in the first quarter of his first game post-suspension, the crowd raised the roof with its cheers, and Tee Morant said, “I’m loving the love they’re showing to the Morants. People make mistakes.” He added that he saw growth and grace in his son during his time away and was looking forward to getting back to a sense of normalcy.
5. Ja Morant Is the Father of a Girl Named Kaari Jaidyn Morant, Who Is Sometimes at NBA Games
Morant became a father for the first time in 2019 as his now ex-girlfriend KK Dixon gave birth to their daughter, Kaari Jaidyn Morant, on August 7, 2019. On November 16, 2021, he opened up about his daughter, writing on Twitter, “kaari was the best thing to ever happen to me.”
When it was Kaari Morant’s first birthday, the Grizzlies star said it was tough to miss it because of the NBA Bubble. “I wasn’t in a good mood at all,” Bleacher Report shared of his chat with reporters. “[I] told them it was probably one of the toughest days of my life.” He dedicated the win to his baby girl, saying it was “Kind of tough, but the thing I gave her today was a win. So hopefully she’s thankful for that and all the gifts she’s got back at the house.”
When Dixon was pregnant with her daughter, she developed preeclampsia at around 31 weeks. She told the Preeclampsia Foundation that she had convulsive seizures and nearly died and had to have an emergency delivery after just a 7-month pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure, kidney problems or other organ damage, according to the Mayo Clinic. If untreated, it can be fatal for the mother and baby.
“Around 3 a.m. on August 7, Daddy woke up because I was hitting him as I was having seizures and couldn’t control my body,” Dixon wrote in a letter to her daughter published by the Foundation. “I had never had a seizure in my life, nor had I even seen anyone else have one. It was so scary… When I regained consciousness, my body and mind were so weak, I just prayed, ‘Dear God. Please let my baby be OK. Please don’t take us both from this world. I don’t want Ja to be left all alone.'”
A year after her daughter’s birth, Dixon decided to launch an initiative with the foundation called the “I wish I knew” campaign. “I am not trying to frighten anyone. I believe knowledge is power. I want to empower you with the information you need to have the best possible outcome for you and your baby,” Dixon shared.