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Man or Myth?

Ja Morant’s “Eye Game” is the spiritual successor to Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game”: probably bogus yet absolutely incredible

May 04, 2022

In the waning seconds of the third quarter in the Memphis Grizzlies’ Game 2 win over the Warriors on Tuesday, Ja Morant went up for a rebound against Jonathan Kuminga. Kuminga fell awkwardly and, somewhere in the tangle of limbs, poked Ja Morant in the eye. Morant, already cooking with 32 points, wheeled away holding his face. He left the game in distress, telling the Memphis training staff he couldn’t see out of his left eye. He received eye drops and treatment in the locker room on two separate occasions before returning to the floor.

What happened next was the stuff of legend. Morant entered the game and rattled off 15 fourth-quarter points, including the decisive floater with 30 seconds remaining, to lead the Grizzlies to a must-have Game 2 win. After the game, he told reporters he did all of it with one eye.

Big if true ... but that's a big "if." Unless Morant regularly practices with one eye closed, the change in depth perception from having your vision halved would be nearly impossible to adjust to in a single quarter of playoff basketball. Then again, Morant is one of the most athletic, preternaturally gifted young players since Derrick Rose. Is it possible that his muscle memory is so ingrained—his talent so immense—that what would be impossible for us normies is just slightly more difficult to him? Sure, that’s possible.

The truth, a lot like Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game,” is probably somewhere in between. Thanks to the ‘The Last Dance,’ the “Flu Game” has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Jordan himself admitted it wasn’t actually the flu, but food poisoning from some bad SLC pizza. Scottie Pippen, on a warpath to discredit all things Michael and schill his own book, pointed out that his “Bad Back Game” was actually more difficult than playing with a little tummy ache. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain, as the old saying goes.

So let's pretend the Grizzlies go on to do great things this season with Morant’s 47-point performance on Tuesday as the catalyst. Two decades from now, will the tides turn, will God’s honest truth finally wash up on shore? Will jilted ex-teammates come out of the woodwork saying things like “Eye Game!? You should have been there for my Toe Game!”? All that remains to be seen, but for now let’s enjoy Morant’s probably, maybe impaired explosion for what it is:

An unreal game of basketball from an unreal basketball player.