He glides through the lane with such prowess and ease, leaps into the air with unbelievable explosiveness and power, and slams the ball powerfully through the net. He trots back down the court without so much as a yell or even a fist pump, only a slight smirk. He has had that same smirk on his face since he was 13 years old, dominating grown men on the eroding concrete courts of Englewood, a small crime-ridden south Chicago neighborhood.
His name is Derrick Rose, and after all, he’s just living his childhood dream as the NBA’s best point guard for his hometown Chicago Bulls. Rose, the reigning NBA MVP, continues to amaze the basketball world in just his 3rd full NBA season. In the long, storied history of Chicago high school basketball, collegiate and professional scouts alike claim they had never seen a player more talented and determined than Rose come out of the Chicago area.
The Bulls used to be firmly against drafting hometown kids. There are enough distractions for a young man trying to establish himself in the most prominent professional basketball league in the world without the added pressure of playing in front of family and friends on a nightly basis. But that is exactly what Derrick Rose thrives on, pressure. He is the prodigal son of Chicago. Derrick Rose has brought hope to the small, brutal south side neighborhood of Englewood, a neighborhood that is consistently in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The people of Englewood are so beaten down by violence and injustice they can’t even fathom the theory of optimism. Derrick Rose has changed all of that in just 3 short years. Rose brings Englewood residents the hope that one day they, too, can rise above all the violence and make it. Since being drafted by Chicago in the 2008 draft as the number 1 overall selection, Rose has averaged 21.2 points per game, adding 6.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds each time he steps out on the floor.
Rose isn’t all about offense; his Bulls were number 1 in total defense last season. He took the Bulls, a franchise that hadn’t won a playoff series since the Jordan days, to back to back playoff appearances in his first 2 seasons, winning 3 playoff series during that time span. I really didn’t think it was possible, but the people of Chicago have embraced Rose more than they ever embraced Jordan, and Rose has yet to bring an NBA Championship back to the Windy City. Derrick Rose truly is Chicago.
The 2010-2011 season for Rose was one that will forever go down as one of the best seasons a single player has ever had in NBA history. Rose averaged 26.5 points, 8.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game during that remarkable season, a season in which he was named the NBA’s most valuable player. He guided his Bulls to an NBA best 62-20 record and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, where Chicago fell to the Miami Heat in 5 games. But the Bulls were back, and the baby-faced, bright eyed Derrick Rose had brought the Bulls from absolute mediocrity to title contenders.
Sure, like anybody else, Rose has his doubters. ESPN columnist John Hollinger called Rose’s MVP award “an absolute abomination to the league.” Many fault Rose for his less than flattering career field goal percentage (46.7 percent) and his career field goal percentage from beyond the arc (30.8 percent). However, Rose makes up for it with his unbelievable efficiency from the free throw line (career 87 percent) and his knack to take and make the clutch shot. He seems to transcend the game itself, yet he does it with such a calm, relaxed exterior. One would think the success Rose has experienced over the past couple of seasons would change the way he plays and the way he carries himself off the court. Just the opposite has happened for Rose.
Upon signing a new 5 year, 98.5 million dollar contract that would keep him with Chicago through the 2016-2017 season, Rose remarked “Of course, I know I’ll be able to afford whatever I want, but other than that, there aren’t too many things that excite me. Me winning is one of the things. I’ll take winning a title over anything I could possibly buy with money. Me being around my family, that’s another. Money, that’s the last thing I think about. This will not change who I am.”
As a lifetime Bulls fan, I faintly remember the Jordan days. In fact, some of my fondest memories as a youngster were watching Jordan take over games like no other player has ever done. But now the younger generation of Bulls fans has their own Michael Jordan in Derrick Rose, and we plan on loving him until he hangs it up for good. This Jordan might not win 6 championships or retire twice, but NBA fans everywhere know Derrick Rose and the Bulls will be serious title contenders for years.