Any basketball fan can remember it. 2012 Playoffs, Chicago vs. Philapelphia. The youngest MVP to ever win the award collapses to the floor and needs to be helped off the court. Chicago fans and NBA enthusiasts around the world held their breath waiting for the result of the MRI. When it was reported that Rose tore his ACL in his left knee, the NBA world’s collective hearts sank. The explosive nature of his game did not lend itself well to this kind of injury, and everyone knew the road back would be difficult, if not impossible.
After missing the entire 2012-2013 season, Adidas and Rose teamed up for a momentous comeback. #TheReturn was coined and marketed to bring Rose back into relevance, and I was fully on board.
The league was electrified for the return of the MVP. Was he back to his old explosive self? Could he be even better? After his first pre-season game back in Chicago against the Detroit Pistons on October 16, 2013, Rose was quoted saying:
“I think I’m way more explosive now. Like getting to the rim. I think I can take contact a little bit better. And as far as jumping-wise, I think I can jump even higher. They tested my vertical — I increased it by 5 inches”Friedell, Nick (October 17, 2013). “Derrick Rose: I’m more explosive now”. ESPN.com. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
People started to believe he was back despite a slow start to the season. That is, until November 22nd, 2013 where Rose injured his right knee playing against the Portland Trail Blazers. Fans were devastated when they found out that Rose had torn his meniscus in his right knee and after a successful surgery, would be out for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season.
Fast forward to the 2016 off-season. Rose is back again and showing flashes of his former self. After stringing together an injury free 2015-2016 campaign, Rose is traded to the New York Knicks. He begins 2016-2017 well until the turn of the new year. On January 9th, 2017, it wasn’t an injury that plagued Rose but a personal choice. He flew to Chicago and no-showed for a game against the Pelicans without notifying any team officials.
Now fans begin to question his dedication not only to his teammates and franchise, but to the game of basketball itself. To make matters worse, Rose then tore the meniscus in his left knee on April 2nd, 2017 forcing him to undergo his fourth knee surgery in nine years.
His contract was up during his rehab, and he decided to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2017-2018 season, hoping to contribute to a perennial Finals contender and help LeBron James take down the Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately, Rose didn’t make it that far, leaving the team on November 24th, 2017 to “re-evaluate his future in the NBA”. At this point, murmurs began agreeing that Rose should just hang up the sneakers. Between his ailing knees, mental wariness caused by continual injuries, and the inability to play his style of ball, Rose was not even a shadow of his former self. Despite the media backlash and self-doubt, he decided to try another comeback, rehabilitating an ankle injury with the Cavs until he returned on January 18th, 2018. Less than a month later, Rose was traded to the Utah Jazz who immediately waived him.
Rose never claimed to care about the money, but he would be leaving more than $80 million on the table in a contract with Adidas should he never step foot on a court again. Even if he wanted to comeback, what team would take a player with four knee surgeries, a history of letting his teammates down, and has publicly questioned whether he wants to be playing this sport?
Enter the Timberbulls.
Thibs is crazy. Although it’s not mentioned above, coach Tom Thibodeau was step-for-step on this journey with Rose up until he was traded to the Knicks. In the midst of everything else going on, Thibs is let go from the Bulls (another post perhaps) and subsequently given the GM/coaching gig in Minnesota. Thibs is met with young talent that is not yet accustomed to his style of play. So what would anyone do with the power of a GM and the system of a coach? Go get your boys back.
Thibs went on a tear, acquiring Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Luol Deng to bring in the veteran presence with experience in the defensive system Thibs was hoping to bestow on the Twin Cities.
So what do we have now for our hero? A last chance. An opportunity with his old coach and teammates to try to turn back the clock one more time before being forced out of the league forever. Rose knew this of course, and to the amazement of everyone pulling for him he has once again begun to take the NBA back by storm. His season thus far has been great, but if you had to pinpoint the game that set the world on fire, look no further than Halloween of 2018 against the very team that waived him less than a year ago. The former MVP showed what he was still capable of, scoring 50 points on 4/7 three-point shooting, a known weak-spot in his dramatic career. After sealing the game with a block, Rose succumbed to emotion.
It’s clear this was built up over the past eight years. Rose went from the youngest MVP with the brightest future, to likely being kicked out of the league as the only MVP to never see the Hall-of-Fame. This performance was his answer to the question of whether he was going to give up or not. This game could very well be a defining moment not only in his career, but his entire life. The weight of this event is what caused the emotional reaction in the interview, and watching it live evoked the same thing in me.
What impresses me most is that it didn’t stop here. Rose has kept his foot on the gas this month shotting a blistering 63% from deep and arguably being the best player on a T-Wolves team packed with talent. And now, with the Butler debacle finally over, Rose has a clear path to continue this amazing run that we’ve been waiting for since 2013.
So if you’re a basketball fan, if you were a part of the hype in the early 2010’s, or if you just like a good story, sit back and enjoy witnessing the long awaited comeback five years later than expected.
A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet