If you would have told me on May 3, 2011 that Derrick Rose would be without an NBA job at 29-years old, well, I would have recommended a stay at the funny farm for you. But alas, here we stand on February 14, 2018 — and a 29-year old Derrick Rose is a free agent after being waived by the Utah Jazz before he ever reported for a day of work with them. This is one of the ugly sides of sports, where the game that a player dedicated his or her life to, chews them up and spits them out.
A kid from the gang violence-ridden streets of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Derrick Martell Rose capitalized on his talent and his passion for the game of basketball, and used basketball as a means of an escape from the streets, something few are afforded the opportunity to do in that neighborhood.
Well aware of the dangers of his childhood home, a teenage Rose sported the number 25 on his Simeon jersey in honor of the late Ben “Benji” Wilson, a promising young Simeon basketball star who was gunned down in November of 1984 due to a senseless argument just blocks away from the school. Wilson was shot twice in broad daylight after a verbal argument with another teenager, leaving behind an infant child and his basketball dreams on the pavement on South Vinceness Avenue, just blocks from the school where he starred as one of the top high school basketball players in the country.
After starring at Simeon for four years and winning a pair of IHSA Class 2A State Championships and being named a McDonald’s All-American and Mr. Basketball Illinois in his senior season, Rose spent a year with the Memphis Tigers before being drafted by his hometown Chicago Bulls with the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. A dream come true for a kid from Englewood, one that was filled with promise of a legendary career in his hometown.
I opened this story by referencing the date May 3, 2011 because that was arguably the pinnacle of Rose’s NBA career, the day he was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player at just 22 years of age, becoming the youngest player to ever win the award. Fast forward to today, and Rose is searching for a job, with little reported interest around the league, just shy of seven years later.
A lot has been said of Rose during his time in the NBA, and more particularly in Chicago, ranging from the ultimate level of adoration all the way down to unwarranted hate and disgust.
At the height of his Bulls career, Chicago loved Derrick Rose more than any player to ever don the uniform, not named Michael Jordan. Derrick Rose wasn’t just one of the best players in the NBA that was supposed to take the Bulls back to the promise land, he was Chicago’s son. Born and raised in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, bred on the blacktop on Chicago’s west side, and leading his hometown team to levels of success not seen in over a decade.
By the time Rose was traded to the New York Knicks in the summer of 2016, the city of Chicago had all but turned their backs on him. Frustrated by repeated lost seasons due to severe knee injuries, Bulls fans craved an exit from the Derrick Rose era — Bulls fans quit on Derrick Rose.
While Rose surely didn’t help himself as far as fan appeal is concerned throughout the final years of his stay at 1901 W. Madison Street, he never quit on this city.
Rose’s biggest downfall outside of his health, was his inability to effectively convey his feelings and desires to the fans through the media. Never a great public speaker, Rose often made himself look selfish because his answers and reasoning behind some of his decisions regarding his health and his recoveries just didn’t come off as genuine, which turned the fan-base against him.
Ultimately, Rose’s desire to lay a long-term financial foundation for his son and his family before his failing knees ultimately called it quits, villainized him with the fans because he couldn’t get it right when it came to public speaking.
Since the trade to the Knicks in 2016, Rose’s career has spiraled out of control. He went AWOL from the Knicks and jetted back to Chicago for personal reasons last season, and eventually signed a veteran minimum deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer. After being ineffective in Cleveland, and once again taking a personal hiatus mid-season, Rose was traded to Utah and waived this week.
The inability to express himself, the perceived poor work ethic, the strange mid-season hiatuses, the sexual assault allegations from a couple of years back — all self-inflicted reasons that have contributed to the demise of Derrick Rose.
Whether or not Derrick Rose catches on with another team this season, or he walks away from the game of basketball. Whether or not he helped bury himself in the court of public opinion — the downfall of his once glimmering career was something that he could never prevent — his body failing on him.
If this is the end, which it may very well be, Derrick Rose’s time in Chicago should be remembered by his early years when the city adored him, before his career and his dreams were ultimately destroyed by injuries.