This time last year, 2008 MVP, Derrick Rose was being mentioned in conversations about “washed up players” and “players considered a bust.” On November 24, 2017, Rose himself even took time away from his then team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and was reported as considering retirement.
Around that time, Kevin Pelton from ESPN wrote, “Rose’s ACL tear and subsequent knee injuries prevented him from fulfilling his potential- and prevented us from seeing which path his career would have taken. That’s what was lost when Rose’s career changed dramatically in April 2012.”
Talk about an athletic obituary, that has to be one of the most depressing statements that I have ever read about an athlete who was still actively playing. Especially a player that many labeled as a future Hall of Famer early on.
As a fan of D. Rose, I was constantly defending him to others, while also secretly being concerned if he would ever turn it back around. When he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves and reunited with his ex-Chicago Bulls coach, Tom Thibodeau, I was skeptical that the reunion or this move would do much to rehabilitate his career. I can proudly say that I was wrong. Watching him in 2018 was my favorite sports story of the year.
Under Thibs, Rose has been given the freedom and confidence to fall in love with the game all over again. Every time he steps onto the floor, you can see that he enjoys lacing up his Adidas again.
On October 31, 2018, the entire world witnessed him play in a memorable 50-point against the Utah Jazz in which even he was overcome with emotion by the end. The sports world hadn’t seen him be as efficient with shooting the ball or the bursts of athleticism that had long been forgotten about. Across the league players celebrated his big night as if it were their own.
Since then, he has gone on to continue to play well and has been averaging 18.9 points per game and 4.8 assists per game. Many are saying that “he is back” or “vintage D. Rose,” but I agree with Jared Dudley from the Brooklyn Nets, “it’s not old DRose, it’s a new and improved one…”
As a D. Rose fan, on December 26, 2018, to watch almost 22,000 fans at the United Center chant “MVP” while he was at the foul line was like watching his journey come full-circle. You could see that the outpouring of love was something that he appreciated when he couldn’t even hold back a smile. It was a special night, a special moment, for a Chicago native that many had given up on.
However, this isn’t about that night, his 50-point game, his unexpected resurgence at 30, or his previous career as a top player in the league. I think the takeaway message from D. Rose’s story is more important than all of that.
How many athletes have we seen come and go? Too many to count. How many of those players have we witnessed lose their careers to severe injuries or a health diagnosis? Again, too many to name. We could fill up a decade-long line-up of 30 for 30 documentaries telling these forgotten stories.
I consider Rose’s journey a voice to those players. He came into the league and skyrocketed to the top, becoming the youngest MVP ever in the NBA. Then we watched his dramatic fall when he tore his ACL during game one of the 2012 playoffs. After that, the injuries continued- a torn meniscus in his other knee, numerous ankle and hamstring injuries, a broken bone in his face, a right foot injury and another torn meniscus. No matter what the injury report stated, the minute his name was attached, meme’s and gifs would flood the timeline of every social media page.
In the summer of 2016, he was traded to the New York Knicks where we saw glimpses of what he could be again. It was also during this time that I noticed his love of the game was starting to dwindle, it made me root for him even more.
After playing the 2016-2017 season with New York, he signed a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Many of us wish we could forget his time with the Cavs altogether. He never appeared comfortable in his role, and after suffering another meniscus injury, it was then that he contemplated retiring altogether. The Cavs traded him to the Jazz in February of 2018, and the Jazz waived him. That next month, he signed a 1-year contract with the Timberwolves.
I will be the first to admit that I was wrong about how I thought the reunion with Thibs would turn out. I assumed Thibs would force a “Derrick Rose” that was no longer there, and I feared that pressure would cause another major injury.
Many believe that Rose is playing at an All-Star level right now, if he was in the East, I could see that being a possibility. Instead, he is tucked away in the star-packed West, and unless he starts, I don’t see his selection to the team. I’m pretty sure that he could care less about any of those accolades at this point in his career. He seems thankful to be happy playing the game again.
When I look at D. Rose, I think about all of the players whose careers ended from significant injuries. I think about the players whom many of us signed off without a second thought. He didn’t allow us to write his ending, and he was resilient enough to fight for his career. Not everyone does, and not everyone gets a second chance at this game either.
Derrick Rose didn’t have the storybook career that we all believed he would after winning the MVP. Instead, it’s been filled with life-learning trials and tribulations. Watching his climb back to the top should inspire all of us while also teaching us to be careful about whom we write off.
Whether you like D.Rose or not, his story is unique. It’s like reaching the climax of an addictive book and not being able to put it down. And to think, he still has more to show us! Perfect stories are uninteresting; we often throw them out and forget all about them. The most complicated sports stories are the ones we always remember. Years from now we will still be discussing the complicated career of Derrick Rose, as we should be. Hopefully, somewhere in those discussions, it will always be recognized that no matter the obstacle, Derrick Rose never gave up.