Somewhere in the lonely confines of a rehabilitation room, a stoic Derrick Rose is looking down at a knee brace that is supporting the key to his livelihood. Beneath the brace is the most valuable commodity in the sport of basketball: the knee, and in Rose’s case, it is swollen and tarnished with scar tissue from the stress of surgical repair. It is an imperfect cluster of ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bone that simply refuses to obey its owner’s wishes. The disconcerting thought stirs in the minds of all Chicago Bulls fans that this is supposed to be Rose’s good knee. The other was severely damaged in April of 2012, when the young phenom went down on a no-contact play that had brought a significant tear to his ACL. The melancholy truth is inescapable; Derrick Rose’s body is betraying him at a tragically young age.
Before Rose’s recent meniscus tear that exacerbated the brokenness of his body, the point guard was the pride of Chicago. He was the only player in the world who was fearless enough to stake claim in the house that Michael Jordan had built, and to take command as the undisputed general and promising testament to the future of Bulls’ basketball. It had taken the Bulls’ organization a decade to find a leader suitable to fit into Jordan’s shoes, and they had found that leader in a quiet 19 year-old kid from Chicago’s own backyard.
Rose shocked life back into the city. In 2009 he was named Rookie of the Year. In 2010 he was the first Bull since Jordan to be elected to an All-Star game. In 2011 he became the youngest MVP in league history at 22 years old. Finally, in 2012 he led the Bulls to a league best 50-16 record. The Chicago Bulls had returned to the list of frequent championship contenders. But according to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, “things fall apart”, and if you were to ask American novelist John Steinbeck, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. The world is an imperfect place, prone to unpredictable circumstances of “what if’s” and “I wish’s”.
The wounded athlete is a dreadfully common tale, and the harsh reality is that Derrick Rose may never be the same. His body will likely never again allow his 6-feet, 3-inch frame to plow through the lane like an intrepid pickup truck in a world of big rigs. But Rose is far too mentally strong to accept defeat all together. The former MVP will learn to adapt, and will find a place for himself.
Rose’s best option may be to return as a sidekick. If Chicago is able to draw in an All-Star free agent or promising lottery pick during the offseason, it will alleviate much of the pressure from the ailing 25-year-old, freeing him up to support his teammates in a less intense environment. Rose can run freely for 25 to 30 minutes a game as the second option on a playoff caliber team. True, handing over the reigns is much easier said than done for an athlete who has most likely been the best player in the gym since he was of the age of watching cartoons and eating breakfast cereals, but if anyone has the bravery to be that selfless, it is Derrick Rose.
In a recent interview, Chicago Bulls head coach, Tom Thibodeau commented on Rose’s resolved mental state. “Typical Derrick, he’s concerned about his team, his teammates. He’s such a great teammate along with being a great player”.
Thibodeau’s words perfectly illustrate the mental toughness of Rose, and convey why he has what it takes to finish rehab strong in order to aid his team in any way they see fit. Is this the end of the Derrick Rose we have known? Possibly, but it is not the end of Derrick Rose. Even now, the young man is tenderly touching his battered knee, and beginning to find hope, not in miracles, but in his own resolution.