Did Ja Morant Grow Up Poor? The Truth To His Early Life 2024

Ja Morant has taken the basketball world by storm since joining the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies in 2019. As the number two overall pick in the draft, Morant came in with high expectations and has exceeded them so far, named Rookie of the Year in 2020 and becoming an All-Star starter in just his third season.

But long before the fame and success of the NBA, people wonder – did Ja Morant grow up poor? What challenges did he face in his early life and path to the league? Here we uncover the truth behind Morant’s upbringing.

Early Years of Ja Morant

Ja Morant, full name Temetrius Jamel “Ja” Morant, was born August 10, 1999 in Dalzell, South Carolina, a small rural town. Located in Sumter County, Dalzell had a population of just over 3,000 residents at the time of Morant’s childhood.

Morant was raised mostly by his single mother, Jamie, along with an older sister Teniya. His father, Tee, was in the picture as well but lived apart. The family struggled financially, but did Ja Morant grow up poor?

By most standards, Morant lived below the poverty line growing up. Dalzell offered little in terms of job opportunities or resources. Making ends meet was not easy for the family, as detailed below. However, Morant has been hesitant himself to outright say he grew up “poor.”

Ja Morant Childhood Pictures

Ja Morant Childhood Pictures
Ja Morant Childhood Pictures

Photos of a young Ja Morant show his overflowing passion for basketball from a very early age. All arms and legs at first, Morant developed his signature athletic abilities playing long days outside with friends, often on worn down community courts and makeshift hoops around Dalzell.

Pictures capture Morant practicing dribble moves for hours mimicking his idol Allen Iverson. In some childhood clips, Ja wears Iverson’s signature arm sleeve and headband, Visual evidence of just how deeply the NBA legend impacted his basketball DNA.

Ja Morant Family Photo

Ja Morant Family Photo
Ja Morant Family Photo

Morant comes from a close knit family of six – his mother Jamie, father Tee, older sister Teniya and extended cousins. They experienced hard times but with South Carolina small town roots, always supported each other.

In family pictures, the Morant clan beams with arms wrapped proudly around a young Ja. Jamie, in particular, made tremendous sacrifices as a single mom to provide opportunities through sports. Family gave Morant the foundation which drives his success today.

Ja Morant Rural Life and Family Support

As one of the smaller towns in the area, job opportunities are limited. Nearly 25% of families live below the poverty line. Public transportation is essentially non-existent. For Morant’s family, making ends meet was an ongoing daily challenge which Ja opens up about occasionally when interviews turn to his hometown origins and childhood circumstances.

Rural Life

While economically depressed, Dalzell’s remote countryside backdrop provided Morant room to grow and explore interests. He embraced sports at a young age, playing football briefly before discovering a passion for hoops.

Morant spent countless hours practicing on rusty basketball rims around town, emulating Allen Iverson and honing trademark moves. He competed in fierce pickup games on Dalzell’s courts which bred the tenacious, creative playing style Ja displays today.

Family Support

Morant lived primarily with his mother, Jamie, sister Teniya and cousins. Family formed a tight support network as the Morants navigated financial struggles. Sister Teniya served as a second mother, helping Jamie with Ja’s care while working long hours. Despite not always having material possessions, love filled their household.

The values of hard work, perseverance and close family bonds ingrained in Morant during his South Carolina upbringing continue to drive his success today. He returns home often and remains extremely proud of his Sumter County roots.

Growing Up in Dalzell, South Carolina

Dalzell’s small size and rural geography presented economic challenges for Morant and his family from an early age.

The average income in Sumter County during Morant’s youth fell well below state and national levels. Access to things many take for granted – healthy food, medical care, adequate housing and heating – were all impacted by the scarce financial resources.

As Morant told The Undefeated:

“It was a struggle growing up. Not having much. My mom having two jobs to make sure we had stuff like clothes or shoes.”

The difficulties Ja faced included:

  • Unstable housing situations – The family moved frequently and lived in outdated homes often needing repairs. As teens, Ja and his sister sometimes stayed with friends when housing issues arose.
  • Limited healthy food options – Low-income areas like Dalzell suffer from “food deserts” where fresh, nutritional foods are largely unavailable and unaffordable, especially for those without vehicles.
  • Minimal access to healthcare – Rural clinics provide basic services but specialized or emergency care required going long distances most could not afford.
  • Exposure to crime/violence – Poverty and lack of opportunities drive higher crime rates in places like Dalzell. Ja largely avoided this fate but it impacted the area frequently.

Life in Dalzell was not easy. And once his basketball talents emerged, the game offered Morant and his family hope of a better life one day.

Developing a Foundation in Basketball

Ja Morant Developing a Foundation in Basketball
Ja Morant Developing a Foundation in Basketball

Despite the family’s financial struggles, sports provided a outlet for Morant from a young age. He played recreation league football briefly but his true passion became basketball at around age 7.

Morant has discussed emulating Allen Iverson growing up and wanting to play just like the NBA icon. Although raw and unpolished, his natural athleticism and instincts for the game showed early on.

High School Years at Crestwood

Ja attended Crestwood High School where his basketball skills rapidly developed. Though a late bloomer in some ways, Morant earned recognition during his junior and senior years.

By senior season, Ja averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game. He led Crestwood to region title contention and a state playoff appearance.

Though rated only a 3-star recruit, Ja drew some scholarship offers from mid-major college programs. Facing continued hardship at home, Morant viewed basketball as his opportunity to change his life trajectory and support his family.

AAU and South Carolina Hornets Experience

Seeking more exposure to college scouts, Morant joined the South Carolina Hornets AAU squad before his senior season. The team participated in high profile tournaments and camps around the nation.

Insight into the Dynamics of Family Living

Ja Morant Insight into the Dynamics of Family Living
Ja Morant Insight into the Dynamics of Family Living

Throughout childhood and adolescence, family played an integral role in Morant’s life. His mother and sister in particular offered constant support. Ja also built a close connection with longtime mentor KK Dixon.

Life with His Sister Teniya

Older sister Teniya Morant served as a second mother figure and Ja’s biggest cheerleader growing up. She helped care for Ja when their mother worked and always encouraged his talents.

Teniya moved to stay near Morant during his college years. As roommates for a period, they further strengthened their unbreakable bond through all his travels and tribulations. Their relationship remains rock solid today as both now have children of their own.

Relationship with KK Dixon

KK Dixon first met Morant around age 10 at a community center and immediately recognized immense potential. He coaxed Ja into organized basketball and became his first real coach and later mentor.

Dixon took Morant under his wing in and out of basketball. He helped hone Ja’s game through countless extra training sessions – on ball handling, perimeter shooting and making reads. Dixon also served as a father figure and guidance counselor as Morant struggled through his turbulent adolescence.

That bond holds to this day. After being hired by the Grizzlies, Coach Dixon continues advising Morant on basketball and life. Ja says he wouldn’t have made the NBA without Dixon’s intervention early on.

The increased competition accelerated Ja’s progress. He began to realize his full athletic potential against top young players.

Hornets coaches also worked extensively with Morant on skill development – ball handling, shooting mechanics, scoring moves and reading defenses. This proved invaluable experience heading into college recruitment.

Ja’s Daughter, Kaari Jaidyn Morant

In February 2021, Ja Morant welcomed daughter Kaari Jaidyn Morant with long time girlfriend KK Dixon (no relation to his childhood mentor). Becoming a father at 21 years old brought immense joy and change to Morant’s world perspective.

Ja maintains an extremely close relationship with Kaari despite his hectic NBA schedule. He keeps her nearby as much as possible on the road and during offseasons. Photos of their daddy-daughter time are a fixture across Morant’s social media.

For a child that came from very little, one gets the sense Ja will stop at nothing to provide his baby girl the life he always desired.

Morant Achievements and Path to the NBA

Ja Morant Morant Achievements and Path to the NBA
Ja Morant Morant Achievements and Path to the NBA

The talent and relentless drive that lifted Morant out of poverty in Dalzell soon became evident to basketball programs at every level. Despite flying mostly under the radar, his stock rocketed after finally getting an opportunity at Murray State.

College Basketball at Murray State

Ja initially committed to mid-major Duquesne sight unseen. However, after visiting the Pittsburgh campus, neither side felt fully comfortable moving forward.

It proved a blessing in disguise as Dexter Fields, a former student manager at Murray State, convinced head coach Matt McMahon to take a flier on this unheralded kid named Ja Morant. And the rest is history…

In his sophomore season, Morant exploded onto the national scene leading the Murray State Racers to national prominence. He achieved multiple triple doubles and had signature performances against power programs. Morant led the nation in assists while averaging 24 points per game.

His electrifying play earned Morant consensus First Team All-American honors and finalist recognition for the Naismith College Player of the Year award among other accolades at season’s end.

NBA Draft and the Memphis Grizzlies

Morant’s dramatic rise now complete, he declared early for the 2019 NBA Draft. Long considered a lottery pick, his sensational sophomore year cemented Ja as a top 3 selection.

The Memphis Grizzlies chose Morant 2nd overall as the new cornerstone of their rebuilding efforts. Growth under the franchise took off immediately…

In his rookie season, Morant averaged 17 points and 7 assists per game, on his way to the 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year award. Behind the stellar debut of their star rookie, the Grizzlies future looks tremendously bright.

Accolades in the NBA

Now in year three of his young career at just 22 years old, Morant continues ascending into superstardom. Quickly he has piled up impressive achievements:

  • 2020 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 2x NBA All Star (2022, 2023)
  • 2023 All Star Game Starter
  • ALL-NBA 1st Team (2023)
  • 2x NBA Most Improved Player Award Candidate (2022, 2023)

And Ja has Memphis atop the Western Conference standings with legitimate championship hopes heading towards the 2023 playoffs.

Ja Morant Off-Court Highlights

Ja Morant off court heighlights
Ja Morant off court heighlights

Beyond his elite basketball skills, Ja Morant maintains plenty of interests away from the court as well. This includes heavy involvement on social media along with business investments and community initiatives.

Social Media Presence

Morant connects extensively with fans on Twitter and Instagram. His accounts provide an unfiltered glimpse into Ja’s life and personality with over 5 million followers combined.

Morant interacts directly and frequently – replying to fans, chatting with fellow athletes, sharing behind the scenes access. This transparency, for better or worse, has endeared him greatly to younger fans.

Business Ventures

As his star rises, Morant also pursues various business opportunities. He partnered with NFT platform Autograph to release exclusive digital collections of licensed Ja Morant content. Additionally, Morant works with corporate brands like Nike on signature shoe lines.

Investing earnings back into assets with long term potential remains a priority as well. Buying real estate near Murray State’s campus was one such recent example.

Community Efforts

Giving back holds special importance to Morant because of his humble beginnings. He runs basketball camps annually in his hometown area to connect with low income youth. Morant also supports foundations providing meals, holiday gifts and essentials to families in need across Memphis and rural South Carolina.

As his fortune grows, expect community outreach programs to expand dramatically. Morant understands firsthand the impact even small gestures of support can create.

How Rich Was Ja Morant?

Ja Morant did not grow up with much money at all. He lived in poverty throughout most of his childhood. His mother worked two jobs but still struggled severely to provide basic necessities for Ja and his sister.

Morant’s family often moved between run-down rental homes, living paycheck to paycheck without savings or disposable income. Making ends meet was extremely difficult. As Morant told reporters, “It was a struggle growing up. Not having much.”

Simple pleasures most kids enjoy like new gadgets, toys, eating out or traveling were completely out of reach financially. The family lacked reliable transportation for years. Morant also discussed not always having basic apparel like new shoes or clothes for school.

By any measure, Morant grew up with very limited financial means. However, the economic hardships drove Morant to find a way out through diligently developing his basketball gifts. That work ethic and relentless ambition continue fueling his success today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did Ja Morant live as a child?

Ja Morant lived in Dalzell, South Carolina as a child.

Did Ja Morant grow up in a good neighborhood?

No, Ja Morant grew up in a very poor neighborhood with little opportunity.

Where was Ja Morant born and raised?

Ja Morant was born and raised in Dalzell, South Carolina.

How many billionaires are in basketball?

There are zero basketball players who have amassed a billion dollars in net worth yet.

Is any basketball player a billionaire?

So far, no professional basketball players have become billionaires based on career earnings and investments.

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