February 21, 2013

NEWCOMB | Do You Know Who This Kid Is?

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As a departure from my normal commentary relating to college football, football in general, or my family’s insanity as it relates to football, I’m moved this week to talk about a person who — as a Chicagoan — is near and dear to my heart: Derrick Rose.

I grew up during the Bulls championship years, and I can remember watching the Bulls beat seemingly whoever they played at will throughout my childhood. One of my earliest memories is asking my dad who had won the Bulls game the previous night. His response of, “Who did you want to win?” undoubtedly meant that the Bulls had been victorious (since my wishful thinking as a three-year-old was extremely powerful).

So in a city that honors, worships and otherwise glorifies Michael Jordan in every way possible, it would have seemed unlikely that within my short adult life, another basketball star would capture the attention of Chicago and the nation at large. Enter Derrick Rose.

There is a lot of coastal bias when it comes to national sports coverage. If you are an East Coast basketball fan, you are holding your breath until the Knicks start floundering, or otherwise Lebron James’ MVP season is blowing your mind.

If you are from the West Coast, you cannot stop talking about how high on a scale of one to 10 the panic meter should be for the Lakers (but actually, this is a segment on SportsCenter almost every day) and whether or not Kobe is too old or too selfish or too whatever.

In the beginning of last year’s playoffs, Rose tore his ACL and has been rehabbing for the past nine months. Adidas has even documented his road to recovery in short video segments called “The Return” on their website.

So in between the coasts, Derrick Rose’s injury has been dominating the Chicago basketball scene, and it’s not just because of his playing ability; it is about the love and respect that Rose’s reckless and selfless play has earned him.

Rose came to the Bulls in the 2008 NBA Draft due to what can only be called the ultimate miracle of miracles. With only a 1.7 percent chance of winning the first pick in the draft, Chicago won that little ping-pong ball lottery style thing (that seems outdated if you ask me) to earn the chance at the undisputed first overall pick. Enter again: Derrick Rose.

Immediately, Chicago exploded with joy. Rose is a Chicago native, and after one year with the Memphis Tigers — which is a situation I criticized because of former Memphis head coach John Calipari’s affinity for this kind of collegiate attendance — Rose was going to be coming home. His time at Memphis became a quick vacation away from his hometown, and it truly was viewed as such upon his return to play for the Bulls.

After this return, Rose became a symbolic Chicago athlete. At home games, he is always the last player to be announced, and where each Bulls player is announced with their number and college, Rose’s introduction is always, “From Chicago, #1, Derrick Rose”.

So it came as no surprise to me when Bill Simmons — the editor-in-chief of Grantland — said the following with respect to Rose: “This is a weird comment that can’t be backed up, but I’m making it anyway: I don’t think any NBA fan base loves a player more than Bulls fans love Derrick Rose. If you went into a Chicago sports bar and started trashing Rose during a Bulls game, you’d get beaten up and left for dead in an alley.”

Despite this strange sentiment, I think every Bulls fan would echo that loyalty. Rose is becoming more and more unique in a league that is seemingly being overrun by divas and the unending quest for a better contract.

In a press conference when asked about his drive and determination, Rose responded, “There’s no point in playing this game if you aren’t trying to be the best, and if I’m not trying to be the best, then I might as well retire.” No other commentary needed.

So, despite Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday last week, the focus remains on Rose. It was still a front-page story this past week that Rose started participating in 5-on-5 practices, and today even just an update on his status continued to make front page news. Yes, we are talking about practice, and we are talking about it as if it were the be-all end-all of practices.

Rose was the youngest player to ever win the MVP award at the age of 22 in 2011 and you can only imagine how badly he’ll repeat this feat after the past nine months of hard recovery. Here’s to hoping he makes his 2013 return tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, the next day.

My point is that if you’re stuck arguing about the power players on the east coast or if you think Lob City is unbeatable on the west coast, I recommend you meet in the middle in Chicago. Take a hard look at how incredible Derrick Rose is, and will be for years to come.

Finally, a quick shout-out to Stacey King, the lead color commentator for the Bulls, who is responsible for the title of this article. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, YouTube search “Stacey King Bulls” as soon as you possibly can. You will not be disappointed.

Original Author: Annie Newcomb