The lights brilliant, the smoke enveloping, the music blaring, thousands of gears whirring and sputtering, slowly the stage began to take form with five of the NBAs most recognizable faces creeping out of the manmade mist. As the stage reached its zenith, Lebron James and Dwight Howard were in full swing, grinding back and forth to the music defining the word ‘swag’. To Dwight’s left Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade rocked to the rhythm as well as the crowd worked itself into a frenzy. The 23-year-old MVP, remained immobile, silent, hands behind his back waiting for the charades to end. Derrick Rose is not your ordinary Superstar.
Derrick’s humility has become his most defining characteristic to the outsider. As he drives past NBA athletes with ease, dunking over 7-footers, he doesn’t stop to point to the back of his jersey, or turn to his most recent victim to further embarrass him on National TV; he simply hustles back on defense to get into position for the ensuing play. How can a 23-year-old kid, arguably the best at his position in the world, be so modest? It begins with a humbling background. Rose grew up in Englewood, the most dangerous part of the SouthSide of Chicago, an area littered with gangs. Derrick was born into a family of four brothers, with his single mother Brenda struggling to provide the basic essentials for survival. Derrick as the youngest was looked out for by his older brothers, most notably Reggie, who recognizing his talents early, pressed Derrick into basketball and away from the dangerous non-sense that surrounded every adolescent in Englewood. Derrick’s life became basketball, he worked at it daily: on the playground, at the school gym, anywhere he could bounce a ball he frequented to polish his skills. The Rose family had nothing tangible, they had each other, and a determination to endure. As time passed Derrick excelled in hoops, attending Simeon highschool where he won two state titles before becoming the number one recruit in the nation. All the while his family stood by, pushing him, keeping him out of trouble, reminding him that it was not just him that he was saving, but it was all of them. So much relied on his perfection of a game it almost wasn’t fair. Derrick’s hunger to become the best stemmed not from the soul desire to win, but the absolute necessity too.
While Derrick continued to work, he also lived in a basketball town consumed by the greatest player to ever live, Michael Jordan. All things Jordan dominated the city from 1984-1998, and still have a tremendous impact on the city today. Derrick was born October 4th 1988, right towards the start of Jordan’s illustrious career, who better to idolize and revere? Jordan had tremendous talent, some could argue the best the world has ever seen, but ‘athlete’ is not the first word used to describe him by his peers, but ‘competitor’. No one competed like Michael. No one willed himself along with a group of individuals to play as hard as they did or do the impossible like Michael. Losing was never an option. He elevated everyone’s game to ensure the goal of winning would be met, he would not be denied.
After a successful MVP campaign, the 3rd year Rose started the playoffs uttering “why not me?” Two playoff round wins later, Derrick found himself against two of the five best players in the league. A matchup where although he had won three straight he still remained the underdog. Derrick took on a “me against the world” mentality and led the Bulls to a blowout win in game one, only to lose the next four straight, two in heart-breaking fashion. After the loss to the clear superior team, after the city thanked him for his efforts, after his family and friends congratulated him on his breakout year, Rose was inconsolable. He could barely talk, he had no desire to leave his home, moping for weeks before finally seeking out Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas to shed light on what Rose believed was an inexcusable failure. Derrick didn’t understand, he wasn’t supposed to lose, he doesn’t lose. In his post-series interviews Derrick put the entire loss on himself. It was his fault this, his fault that. Finally Derrick did what he knew how to do, he flew to LA picked up a basketball and went back to work, perfecting his game (this time improving a low post game) working alongside fellow All-Stars Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, waiting for the 2012 season to start so he could put the failure behind him.
Although basketball isn’t life or death anymore, explain that to Derrick. The term ‘living for something’ takes on new meaning with Rose’s story. Derrick didn’t come from glamour or glitz, he wasn’t assured of a number one pick by the time he was twelve (Lebron). He worked on his game day in and day out, putting the entire weight of a family on his back. Get better, win, are his mantra. As Lebron, Dwight, Melo, and Dwyane danced enjoying the weekend, enjoying the eyes on attention, basking in the light, the smoke, D-Rose patiently with his hands behind his back, waited to get back to work.