Derrick Rose was a revelation. Playing like anything else never suited him.
Written by Kyle Magin
Derrick Rose played NBA basketball for four campaigns before I realized he was a relatively pedestrian 6’3” (listed).
I remembered Rose slashing into the paint time and again, sometimes deking a defender by sticking a hip out like he’d post up before elevating off two feet and slamming it the hell home, and doing that all within a tick of the clock. He played 6’8”. He also–almost–revolutionized the playing of point guard in a league that’s had no paucity of prophets at that position.
He drove-and-kicked like nobody else because defenders felt a pants-shitting fear that this guy might put their profiles on a poster.
The South Side kid had the talent to change the game. He led Memphis, that muddy Mississippi backwater, to within a few free throws of a national title during his sole scholastic season. He was the metal that sharpened metal in scrimmages against the Redeem Team in ‘08 before hitting the parquet running at United Center in a rookie season that would see him drop 20, dime 6.3 and pull down 4.9 rebounds on the way to an ROY in ‘09.
In just two years he’d be one of the baddest men on the planet, snatching the 2011 MVP from the likes of LeBron, Durant, and Carmelo–when that meant something. During that season, at 22, he took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals with Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer as a supporting cast, which would have been like Affleck putting BvS into Best Picture consideration on the strength of his own performance.
But, it went wrong in the Windy City, because frequently, that’s your reward for being brave at basketball’s highest level when you own a mortal’s frame. Rose–after the left ACL went in ‘11, then the right knee once in ‘13 and then, twice in ‘15–didn’t adjust his game to the one played by lunch pail points. There would be no perimeter retirement for Rose in Chicago, where fans expected hero ball from the local prodigy.
He still wanted to explode to the rim, still wanted to be the freak on a team featuring probable human/possible bear Jimmy Bulter and the gecko-eyed Pau Gasol. Pushing lessers to greatness was something Rose could do, but not as a dedicated distributor. He came back as an OK scorer, but never had the burst that made him special.
Rose was a distinctly American point guard and I’m crestfallen that he never got to become the blacktop’s prototype by winning in the later rounds of the playoffs. He was muscular, a rebounder who did the dirt with the big fellas and then keyed the break on the other end. He defended like a terror, ball-hawking the lanes like a guy who didn’t have to run an offense in 40 feet, which is to say with abandon.
Derrick Rose could have been great for basketball, but we’ll have to settle for the fact that he was very, very good at basketball for too short a time.