On Chicago’s South Side, there’s a mural with some of the city’s homegrown basketball stars such as Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose.
After yesterday’s news on Rose’s torn meniscus, I have a feeling that mural will be touched up soon.
Or left the same.
For many, Rose’s story goes like this:
He missed a critical free throw in the 2008 NCAA Championship game.
Someone allegedly took the SAT for him.
He got hurt.
He got hurt again.
He was traded to the Knicks.
He may or not have participated in the gang rape of an ex-girlfriend.
He went missing.
He got hurt again.
But in Chicago, things are different.
Rose is the local kid Chicagoans saw as one of their own. The “Just a Kid From Chicago,” campaign that Powerade created two years ago resonated for a reason. After all, that’s how most people here see him.
And this is why his most staunch supporters stand by him even when he’s the butt of social media jokes anytime he misses a game. Many of them weren’t surprised to hear him talk about his impending free agency.
Rose is on the vanguard of the newer generation of Black athletes who’ve set the tone by changing the narrative of how others perceive them. Like LeBron and Steph Curry, they run the show and the rest of us operate at their whims.
When Rose got hurt in the 2012 playoffs after being one assist and a rebound short of a triple- double with a 12-point lead in Game 1 against the Sixers, he suffered an ACL tear that changed his trajectory.
Once he was cleared to play, but didn’t, a loud minority of fans and media made the false equivalency of making a comparison with their own jobs to Rose’s. And they never let him forget it. Also, being at the center of a civil lawsuit with an ex-girlfirend that opened up some dirty laundry from his personal life didn’t help matters either. After the legal proceedings, Rose was seen taking pictures with some of the jurors.
The optics looked bad.
Somewhere along the way, he challenged the perception of who and what the Black athlete ought to be. The NBA is routinely, and unfairly, vilified for cultural, generational and racial reasons. Rose became the lightning rod for everything that appears to be wrong with millennials. Instant gratification, disrespectful to their elders,etc.
For instance, remember what he said about free agency and how he was vilified for doing so?
“But when you talk about that much money the only thing you can do is prepare for it,” Rose told reporters in 2015 during the Bulls media day. “I’m trying to prepare, not only myself, but my family. And I’m doing this all for my son. Like I said, I’m thinking about his future. Even though we’re alright, we’re comfortable, when you talk about that x-amount of dollars, I think it raises everyone’s eyebrows, so there’s nothing wrong with being over-prepared.”
After all, Rose saw marginal players such as Matthew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov and Marvin Williams get lucrative free agency deals.
Many of the people who’ve critiqued Rose have no idea what it is like to be the franchise player in the city they grew up in. That’s a whole other level of pressure. Not only is he playing in front the fans, he’s playing in front people who’ve known him his whole life.
Remember former Bulls/Knicks center Eddy Curry?? He grew up in the Chicago area to be drafted by the Bulls. That didn’t work out for Curry. Also, being a Chicago hoops star is similar to being a blue chip football player in Texas. In most cases, these guys are just as popular as the pros.
Due to multiple injuries Rose has had since high school, he’s not the player he once was. The player who wildly outperformed his rookie contract is gone. At this point, it is highly unlikely that he will have a Hall of Fame career like another player who starred for most of the his career in his hometown, Bernard King.
Despite missing multiple seasons with injuries, King was one of the best players of his generation. When it was all said and done, King was known more for his play than his injuries.
Keen observers thought Rose would change the narrative with his play. At this point, when folks think of Rose, they think of his injuries. Every time he falls, or leaves a game prematurely, media and fans fear the worst.
And some wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire.
Only time will time if Rose can remove all doubts. Right now, it ain't looking good.
We may be watching a later-to-be-named ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.
That same mural I mentioned earlier has Rose in a Knicks jersey. And if he leaves to go to another team, that mural will have Rose in a different jersey.
After all, most Chicagoans, and many basketball fans, are left thinking what could’ve been.