The Rise and Fall of Derrick Rose
I’m about to tell you something that you may not want to hear, but probably should have accepted a long time ago;
The Derrick Rose we knew and loved is long gone, and he's never coming back.
I’m actually surprised we’re still having this talk, but all across the country there are D. Rose fans that still hold on to the idea that Derrick will return to the dominant days of his prime.
It hurts, I know it does, but once you accept it the healing process can truly begin.
But before we discuss Rose’s current status with the Cavaliers and in the NBA in general, its important that I refresh your memory on just how great D. Rose was...
The legend of Derrick Rose, or “Pooh” as he is lovingly referred to by family members, close friends and seemingly anybody in Chicago who’s ever taken a picture with him (personally, I can’t call another grown ass man Pooh, but y’all got it), started long before he stepped foot on an NBA court.
Whenever I think about the rise of D. Rose, I always come back to a story my boy Miles Stroter told me about a Thanksgiving Day tournament when he played for Keller Elementary:
“We signed up for a Thanksgiving Day tournament at Ada Park with a bunch of other CPS teams. Now up until this point, we had destroyed everybody we were playing G. So when we saw a first round matchup with Beasley, we didn’t think nothing of it.
All we knew was that couldn’t nobody out hoop Maurice, and wasn’t nobody bigger than me... boy was we wrong.
They won the opening tip, and the off guard got the ball while D. Rose jogged up the court toward the baseline. As he’s running, the forward sets a screen and the guard just tosses the ball toward the rim. We all looked up like ‘wtf is he doing!?’ , next thing I know D. Rose came flying outta nowhere and dunked on me.
We were amazed moreso than intimidated.”
Rose’s early success was just a glimpse into his future. D.Rose and some of those same teammates from Beasley went on to dominate opponents in Chicago’s supremely competitive Public League, leading his team to back-to-back state titles at Simeon High School.
Rose continued his winning ways under John Calipari at the University of Memphis, where he almost won a National Championship (due to NCAA violations their amazing season was wiped from the books; the millions of dollars generated by the Memphis Tigers were retained by the NCAA.).
D. Rose’s athleticism was as explosive as it was effortless; we marveled as he recklessly bursts through the lane, contorting his body mid air while simultaneously avoiding the opposition to convert bucket after bucket.
Rose went on to become the youngest league MVP in NBA history, and as much as people want to use the analytics that dominate today’s game to discredit this award, if there was ever a year to deviate from just handing it to LeBron (he has a legit argument for the award every season) it was 2011.
Derrick led the Bulls from an 8th seed to a 1 seed while carrying the bulk of the load offensively.
And then it happened.
Up by 12 points with 1:10 left in a first round playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose tore his ACL while driving through the lane like he’d done a thousand times before. The game was over. I'll never understand why he was still in, but the decision to keep him in completely altered the trajectory of his career.
For those of us who had watched him since we were in high school - some earlier than that - this couldn't be it. We couldn't believe that such a supreme talent could lose it so quickly. But truth be told, things would never be the same for Rose in Chicago.
Today if you mention Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in the sentence you might get laughed out the room. But before the injuries took their toll Rose was the most athletic point guard the NBA had ever seen. Those acrobatic layups became few and far between, and the phrase "Vintage Rose" quickly became extremely annoying.
Things finally came to a head when Rose was dealt to the New York Knicks for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and the corpse of Jose Calderon. It was finally over, and man, that shit hurt.
The Derrick Rose era in Chicago wasn't supposed to end like that. D. Rose wasn't just any guy drafted by a struggling team, and that’s what made him special. He was one of us, born and raised on the South Side. If anybody knew what basketball means to the city, it was Derrick. He was our Allen Iverson, except imagine if Iverson went away to star at Georgetown only to come back home to Virginia and be named the face of a franchise.
After the trade Rose talked about having something to prove in NY, even switching his number back to 25, an ode to Simeon legend Ben Wilson. Unfortunately for Rose, his tenure with the Knicks became known more for his decision to go AWOL before a game in January than his actual performance on the court.
Now with the Cleveland Cavaliers and battling yet another nagging injury, Rose once again took a leave of absence from his team. And once again, he has come back assuring fans that he still loves the game and wants to prove that he can perform at a high level.
But at this point, what exactly can Derrick bring to a team?
Although 2011 was only 7 years ago, a lot has changed in the NBA, and with today’s game relying on pace and efficiency, volume scorers are rarely used anymore. Without the elite athleticism that separated him from everyone else, that’s what he has become.
While that may not work in a starting role, his numbers from last season look much different when coming from a bench player. In fact, Rose’s 18 points, 3.8 reb and 4.4 ast on 47% shooting are actually on par with the last TEN players to win the NBA sixth man of the year award
With Isaiah Thomas returning to action and Dwyane Wade showing signs of new life with the second unit, accepting a bench role may be the only way for D.Rose to make a contribution in the modern NBA.
Otherwise, we may just end up reminiscing on what could have been.