Kobe Bryant’s Latest Assist to Vince Young

Kobe Bryant has seen trouble before, and now he is a mentor for other athletes facing it.

By Kurt Helin
|  Monday, Nov 30, 2009  |  Updated 3:07 PM PDT
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Kobe Bryant’s Latest Assist to Vince Young

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NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 29: Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates after a 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field on November 29, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The cell phone of a winning NFL quarterback is overwhelmed with text messages on game days. But after winning last Monday night on national television, Tennessee's Vince Young went quickly to one special text in that wave of messages.

Good game V. Way to kick butt!”


It came from Kobe Bryant, who probably had more good things to say after Young’s 99-yard game-winning drive this past Sunday that had even his most ardent skeptics singing his praises. Young has taken the Titans from 0-6 to talking playoffs. He is a lock for Comeback Player of the Year.

Last season was about as far down the rabbit hole as a quarterback can go for Young, He struggled on the field, throwing two interceptions and getting a knee injury in the season’s first game. He was booed by the hometown fans.

Then came the team-ordered meeting with a psychological therapist and reports that he had contemplated suicide. Young never saw the field again last year, or the first six games of this season.

Through that time, he developed a relationship — largely via text message — with Kobe Bryant, maybe basketball’s most recognizable face. But also a guy who has had personal issues that drew heavy media attention (his sexual assault trial in Colorado) and a guy who has been booed. A lot.

Kobe climbed back on top — he has an NBA championship, he is the cover boy for video games and magazines, had documentaries made about him. His image has been rehabilitated.

How? By ignoring what everyone else is saying, getting better and winning. In America, we forgive winners and keep kicking people who are down. It may not be right, but it’s the way things go.

Bryant’s mentoring message seems to have sunk in. Young has tuned his critics out. And he has come back and won — not always by doing something spectacular but rather by being mature and not making mistakes. That was, until the end of the game Sunday when Young made plays — with his arm no less, not his fleet feet — to get the Titans another win. Bottom line, in the first six games the Titans averaged 14 points per game, but since Young came in it is 31.

Vince Young is back. But Kobe gets the assist.

 

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles where he is runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).

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