Raising Dez Bryant: Can Michael Jordan Succeed Where Deion Sanders Failed?


It’s being widely reported that Dallas Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant is now being personally mentored by the greatest sports icon who ever existed, Michael Jordan. According to Bryant’s long-time team appointed mentor David Wells, Dez and Jordan speak regularly on the phone and through texts. Usually, twice a week. Bryant is also receiving advice from current NBA free agent and all-star point guard Chris Paul. But can these two succeed where former Cowboy great and current NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders failed?

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) reacts on the bench in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

According to an article by John Breech on CBSSports.com, Bryant has been looking for more stability in his life and has found a confidant in Jordan:

"“They almost treat him like a little brother,” Wells said of Jordan and Paul, via FoxSportsSouthwest.com. “Dez started listening to older people instead of the young guys. Those guys are both married and have stable lives. And that’s something Dez craves.” The goal, according to Wells, is to help Bryant mature and become more of a leader, “That’s one of the things [Jordan] preached to him,” Wells said. “He wants him to develop as a leader.”"

As far as possible mentors are concerned, you couldn’t ask for a better one than Jordan. The former Chicago Bull has excelled in all the ways that Bryant has failed. Despite his own history of problems, Jordan continues to have a squeaky clean image in the public eye. And he has turned that image into millions upon millions of dollars of revenue as a business man, product spokesperson and as the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.

To further prove himself to Jordan, Bryant has signed a contract to represent Nike’s Jordan Brand with an unusual clause attached. Dez will work for free for the first year of the three year deal to show he can stay out of trouble. In his professional life, Bryant has also excelled. But now he wants even more. Bryant has set a goal of 2,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns for this season. Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson currently holds the record for single season receiving yards with 1,964 yards (2012). And the now unemployed Randy Moss holds the NFL single season record for receiving touchdowns with 23 (2007). These are lofty goals for the third year pro who posted career high numbers last year of 1,382 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Still, Bryant has yet to earn an All-Pro or Pro Bowl selection.

It been over two years since Deion Sanders gave up on this young man. Sanders first began mentoring Bryant while he was a player at Oklahoma State. Lying to the NCAA about meeting with Sanders over lunch caused Dez to be suspended during his junior season in 2009, thus prematurely ending his collegiate career and a possible Heisman Trophy bid. Still, Sanders continued to defend and mentor Bryant as he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

It is unclear what specific incident sparked Sanders rejection of Bryant, but the terms “selfish” and “immature” were tossed out in various interviews by him. Sanders claimed he wanted to help Dez, but Bryant didn’t want to listen. He also claimed the people around Dez were all “yes” men and Bryant needed a “no” man. In a March of 2010 interview on ESPN’s Ben & Skin Show out of Dallas, Sanders had some harsh things to say about his broken relationship with Dez:

"“He needs help. He needs help. I told the Cowboys from Day One that he needs help. Matter of fact, they have a team in place to help him. But you cannot tell a grown man what to do…I don’t have a problem with you lying to me. That’s one thing. But when you lie to yourself as a man, you have a serious problem and that’s where this kid is. And I can’t condone it…I haven’t spoken to the kid. I have no desire to speak to the kid. In regards to me, I can forgive, but I can’t forget. You can’t tarnish the other things that I have going on and the other kids. It’s sort of like I can’t allow something to poison the fruit of many other kids. I can’t do it, so I cut off those ties a long time ago.”"

In light of Bryant’s recent good behavior, these words by Deion seem a bit egotistical and self-serving. Not only does it appear that Sanders gave up too early on Bryant, but it also seems his intent wasn’t so much to help him but to use him. Whether this is the actual truth or not is only known by the individuals involved. But it appears Dez has now become the bigger man as he allegedly reached out to Deion to resolve their issues via Twitter over the Christmas holidays last year. As of today, Sanders is following 246 people on Twitter. Dez Bryant is not one of them. Maybe Deion simply needs a better mentor.