A recent story from the Courier-Journal explained, in great length, how former and current Kentucky basketball players have taken an ill teenager under their wings, in turn inspiring him to help others and to keep fighting his illness.
“They took me from not even wanting to live to just loving life,” said the kid, 15-year old Reese Kemp, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.
Wizards point guard John Wall, as it turns out, plays a starring role in this tale. Kemp’s father, like Wall’s, died when he was young. And Wall was one of the three Kentucky basketball players who first showed up in Kemp’s hospital room in the summer of 2009, when he was 12. Quoting from the story:
The next day, his cellphone chirped. “Hey, it’s John Wall,” a voice said. “I just wanted to check on you.”
Wall’s father died of liver cancer when Wall was 8. In Reese, Wall says he saw someone suffering similar pain. The two spoke often, and Wall gave Reese tickets to Kentucky’s game against North Carolina.
“He told me it was great to have someone that cared about him,” Wall said by telephone last week. “He said that before that, he didn’t want to live. He didn’t want to keep fighting.”
Wall was selected by the Washington Wizards with the first pick of the 2010 draft. During his rookie season, he flew Reese to Washington and put him up in a posh hotel. He has mailed Reese his jerseys and sneakers, and in Reese’s bedroom, there is even an old poster from Wall’s UK dorm room. “Everything changed after I became friends with John,” Reese said. “He was like a big brother.”
Now, this story is sweet enough as is, especially when you learn that Wall introduced Kemp to Terrence Jones, who has also become close with the teen. But it got even sweeter when John Calipari started talking about it on Colin Cowherd’s radio show.
Cowherd, as you know, has repeatedly ripped Wall over the years, with his first assault including these gems: “Not a sharp guy. All about him.” Since then, Cowherd has continued to blast Wall — as recently as this August — while also bragging that his original rant was the highest-tested eight-minute spot in ESPN Radio history.
Anyhow, Calipari was on Cowherd’s show this week, and the two were chatting about misguided critics who don’t like it when all the UK players leave early, and then this happened.
“Look, there was a great story out about our players, how they get involved in this community,” Calipari said. “And a guy like John Wall – even though he was here one year – he met with a kid, cystic fibrosis. Flew him to Washington to watch him play a game…. I mean, this is about connecting, being socially involved, understanding fame is fleeting, use it for others. It’s not just a basketball thing here.”
Not a sharp guy. All about him.
Did Cal know about Cowherd’s history with Wall? No idea. Either way, Cowherd — a longtime defender of players leaving school early — ignored the Wall stuff and just talked about how he doesn’t have a problem with players leaving early.
Me? I had a wry chuckle, at a certain radio host’s expense.
(Image via Wall’s Twitter account. He calls it “Bow-Tie coolin for the first win.”)
(Also, for the record, I have no idea whether Wall is or is not a selfish guy or a sharp guy. I’m just pretty sure Colin Cowherd doesn’t know, either.)