Ja Morant is doing his hardest to imitate Shaq

The Whiteboard: Ja Morant Is Doing His Best Shaq Impersonation

The Step Back’s daily basketball newsletter, The Whiteboard, covers the NBA, WNBA, and other leagues. To get it delivered to your inbox every morning, sign up here.

Ja Morant played his greatest game of the season on Monday, capping off a remarkable season. He scored 52 points in a 13-point win over the San Antonio Spurs, and he’ll be nominated for two different highlights of the year.

He’s already created a practice of achieving the unthinkable, both on a visceral level of a single play and in the broad strokes of how he’s gone about piling up absurd scoring totals.

The incredible buzzer-beater, the dunk of the year, and a historically unique shooting line for a modern guard were all on the show again in this 52-point masterpiece. This was only the sixth time in the 3-point era that a player scored 50 points in a game while making four or fewer 3-pointers and four or fewer free throws.

Despite the fact that 3-pointers have become such an ingrained part of the game, we’ve seen some incredible scoring performances from players who don’t score from the perimeter but dominate in the paint and go to the line. Morant didn’t need either to get to 52, as he simply paraded into the paint and finished.

Like Shaq in his peak, Ja Morant is scoring in the paint.

Morant scored 34 of his 52 points in the paint, which is the most points scored in the paint by any player this season. Since 1996, he is one of only 14 players to score 34 points in the paint in a single game.

Ja Morant is doing his hardest to imitate Shaq

The only other guard on the list is Bradley Beal, but Morant is the smallest at 6-foot-3. It’s also worth noting who isn’t on the list: Morant did something that LeBron James has never done last night. Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson, on the other hand, never did.

That is something that Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Byrant have never done. Joel Embiid, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire, and Pau Gasol, among other power post scorers, never did.

Ja Morant, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 174 pounds, has developed into one of the NBA’s most prolific point scorers.

Other NBA stories include:

The Joy of Basketball, the debut book by Ben Detrick and Andrew Kuo, takes a colorful and delightful look at the modern NBA.

Each year, the NBA landscape appears to become more and more defined by player movement. But, more importantly, what does this indicate for the NBA as a whole? What about the actual games?

Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to the Denver Nuggets now that both Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray are expected to return soon.

We talked about the finest clutch teams in the NBA this season yesterday, focusing on the Phoenix Suns and their historic run. 538 also did a great job breaking into each team’s clutch offense, and it turns out that the Suns’ edge might be as simple as continuing to run the same stuff they do all night.

Looking for more interesting reading material? Sign up for The Sample’s email newsletter. You choose your interests (sports, politics, science, and more), and they’ll send you one new email newsletter every day to sample. If you enjoy it, you can subscribe with only one click.

If you don’t, erase it and you won’t see it again. The Sample will also help new subscriber find their way to The Whiteboard for every individual who tries the sample through the referral link above.