Rose for Me
It happened. The not-quite-a-decade-long marriage between the Chicago Bulls and, native son, Derrick Rose has ended unceremoniously, via a trade with the New York Knicks. The pride of Simeon High School and one time “air” apparent(get it?) to Michael Jordan has been shipped to Phil Jackson, for what amounts to a trio of role players. The man who electrified an entire city with unmatched quickness and freakish athleticism has been gone for years. The man leaving town now is merely a totem of what was and more importantly what could have been. However, I am not writing now to lament days of futures passed. For me, Derrick Rose will always have an enduring connection to the city he is from and the city for which he gave his heart(and both knees).
I will never forget the first time I heard of Derrick Rose. I could not have been any older than fifth or sixth grade when my dad, on a lazy December Saturday mourning , asked if I wanted to go watch his alma mater Loyola Academy play rival St. Ignatius at Loyola University’s Gentile Center. It was a reluctant yes. We arrived at the gym in time to catch the second half of that game, but it was the second contest of the double header being played that caught my attention. Simeon High School and their All-American 6'3 guard, committed to Memphis where facing off against Carver Military Academy. As soon as we saw him throw down a tomahawk dunk in warm-ups, we sat right back down in our seats. He proceeded to put on a show, scoring seemingly at will and living above the rim. He was a superhero.
I continued to watch him lead a great Memphis team to the final four and ultimately the championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks. He was phenomenal. The same next level athleticism he used to dominate in high school was on display at the highest level of college basketball. Though he missed a few key free-throws down the stretch and was unable to be on the winning side of one of the greatest NCAA tournament games I’ve ever witnessed, greatness was in his future.
I was in my room preparing for bed when I heard my dad yell to come watch the end of the draft lottery as the Bulls, who as I recall had a 1.7% chance of getting the first overall pick were still in the running for said pick. More and more teams were slotted in their picks until finally it was only the Bulls. So we had the first pick. It was one of those drafts where it was two-horse race. The Bulls had a decision Michael Beasley the incredibly talented guy from Kansas State or the hometown boy Derrick Rose. It was Derrick, it was always Derrick. Thus began Drose era.
Rose’s Bulls career started strong. He was raw but incredibly gifted and he parlayed those gifts into a Rookie of the Year. He just got better the next year and made his first All-Star game appearance. He was a budding superstar and the next year he blossomed into one of the best players in the league. “MVP! MVP! MVP!” was all you could hear every time Derrick hit the free throw stipe the second half of the season. The excitement of the United Center patrons was matched only by T.V. commentator, former Bull, Stacy King. King was responsible for some of the most memorable calls of my life as a bulls fan and most, if not all, revolved around Derrick Rose. The Bulls’ faithful were heard by the voters as Derrick won the award, the youngest to ever do so. There he was, 22 years old, the MVP, the best player on the 1 overall seed, and the darling of Chicago, his city. The Bulls were bounced from the playoffs by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat in a competitive albeit five game series. But, Rose and the Chicago Bulls had arrived.
The next year’s regular season went on without a hitch as Bulls Fans anxiously awaited another crack at the big bad Heat. As soon as the highly anticipated playoffs began for Rose they were over. He injured his knee in the first round against the 76ers and would miss the rest of the playoffs and the entire next season. This is were the story of Rose takes a turn. Rose was never the same after this injury and accruing a few more in the following two years. Some of the people of Chicago who once threw proverbial roses at his feet now threw literal Rose jerseys in the back of their closets. Just as quick as he had become the best scoring point guard in the NBA, he had turned into the injury-riddled ire of Chicago.
That’s not how I will remember Derrick Rose. I will remember his lighting quick dominance in a Simeon uniform. I will remember his freshman swagger at Memphis. I will remember him as the MVP of the league who made making big shots and explosive plays as a Bull a common occurance. Most importantly I will remember what he meant to the city of Chicago and specifically what he meant to the south and westside youth. I will remember him speaking through tears about the scourge of gang and gun violence in the city that he loves. I will remember him as that commercial says the “rose that grew through the cracks.”