The plan was practical, in theory.
I couldn’t go to all three basketball games on three-consecutive days. Not with two young kids.
So an executive decision was made. I went to see Bronny James on Saturday night at Collierville High School and then went to the Memphis Tigers exhibition game against Christian Brothers on Sunday afternoon at FedExForum because that was the only way to watch them.
I skipped the Grizzlies’ game against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night since I could watch it on television.
By the time Ja Morant corralled that errant alley oop pass from Tyus Jones and somehow slammed it through the net with just his left hand, contorting his body in midair like only he can, my lapse in judgment had become obvious.
An unmistakable feeling settled in at halftime, and only got worse when Morant and Desmond Bane engaged in an unprecedented duel with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving of the Nets. This wasn’t just playoff intensity in October. It was history. I could’ve and should’ve been there and I wasn’t, a sensation that has become increasingly inescapable in Memphis.
The fear of missing out, or FOMO as it’s known in social media parlance, is a concept that gained traction over the past decade, so much so that it’s now recognized as a word in the Oxford English Dictionary and inspires clinical studies by psychiatrists and neurologists. One such examination last year defined it as “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”
If there’s anything definitive to take from what the Grizzlies and Morant have done over the first week of this regular season, it’s that they are more capable than ever of conjuring that emotion in fans. They are the NBA’s newest FOMO team, in large part because of the superstar Durant declared the “most marketable guy” in the league after a game unlike any played before it.
The way Morant is playing through four games might not be sustainable for an entire season. He leads the NBA in scoring while shooting 60% from 3-point range. But he’s reinforcing that you can’t take your eyes off him, or risk missing out on another feat of athleticism the entire country will be talking and tweeting about.
Watching Morant’s wizardry with the basketball, watching him soar into the air in a manner nobody else can, is now in the same category as watching Steph Curry go on a 3-point barrage, or watching LeBron James at the peak of his powers, or watching Kobe Bryant dissect a defense, or watching Michael Jordan in his prime.
Watching the rest of the team live up to that standard, be it a Bane scoring explosion or Brandon Clarke climbing the ladder for an alley oop or any number of role players out-pacing expectations, makes the entire endeavor seem particularly meaningful.
This team doesn’t just produce highlights. It continues to produce wins, at a rate that suggests it remains a Western Conference contender, even with significant members of the rotation out.
The season is still so young, though, and figuring out what’s real and what’s not can be tricky. Santi Aldama and John Konchar, for instance, have done exactly as the Memphis front office hoped, elevating their games to new levels in elevated roles. But four games is too small a sample size to outright declare that they’re a success.
Same goes for how the Grizzlies are covering up for Jaren Jackson Jr.’s absence, and the unexpected injuries to Dillon Brooks and Ziaire Williams. Thus far, to compensate for the lack of Jackson’s elite defense, Memphis has simply been out-scoring opponents. Morant’s usage rate is above 35%, which would be a new career high if done over 82 games.
It’s OK to wonder, coming off a breakthrough season in which he nonetheless missed 25 games, if Morant can handle this kind of load for extended periods of time. If he can’t do it, how else will the Grizzlies stay afloat until their lineup is full strength again?
And yet, is anyone willing to bet against Morant at this point?
He’s as irresistible of an athlete as we’ve seen play in this city, the ringleader of the most FOMO team Memphis has ever had.
Researchers, by the way, have determined this fear of missing out often results in a lack of sleep, and indeed that applies over the next week as these Grizzlies embark on their first extended road trip out west.
So we are faced with another choice: Stay up late or get more rest.
It seems pretty easy after watching Morant, Bane, Durant and Irving create the first indelible moment of this NBA season.
I’d much rather feel tired than how I felt Monday night.
You can reach Commercial Appeal columnist Mark Giannotto via email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter:@mgiannotto