Derrick Rose is easily the most polarizing player in the NBA today. In 2011, Rose was on top of the world, winning the MVP award and playing basketball the way it should be played. If you’re a Bulls fan today, it probably has something to do with Rose. Rose was a fearless, passionate scorer that seemed to always play with a chip on his shoulder. He played with a level of intensity that made Chicago fans feel like he wasn’t just playing for himself, but he put the entire city that he loved on his back.
We all know how this story goes from there. Rose signed a five-year, $95 million contract after his MVP season and on top of that, signed a 13-year, $185 million shoe deal with Adidas. Rose has only played 100 out of 230 regular season games the last three years and hadn’t played in the postseason since playing one game in 2012. As injuries began to pile up for the once beloved star, his aggressive, athletic style began to wane.
Mind-boggling dunks and bull-dozing through defenders were no longer aspects of Rose’s game, as he seemed complacent with launching three-pointers. According to Basketball-Reference, this season Rose had the 8th worst three-point percentage ever (28%) with at least 270 attempts. Rose’s name sits on that list next to notorious shot chuckers Baron Davis, Allen Iverson, Latrell Sprewell and Antoine Walker. Rose finished with the second highest usage rate of his career despite, other than last season, finishing with the worst PER (15.94) of his career.
Just when fans thought Rose would rather go to his kid’s graduation than win an NBA championship, it happened. The Derrick Rose that would do anything to get the W, that could sprint past an entire team, that played the best when his back to the wall, was, dare I say…back.
In a game the Bulls trailed by 18, Rose ignited a furious comeback and led Chicago to an overtime victory in Milwaukee. Rose scored 34 points, hit five three-pointers, and shot 12-23 from the field in 48 minutes. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 34 points were his most in a postseason since 2011 (34 at Hawks) and most in any game since 2012 (35 at 76ers).
I did see something like this on the horizon, but I didn’t expect to see it happen in this fashion. Rose is playing with a ferocity and a chip on his shoulder that we haven’t seen since his MVP season. He’s also shown the humility that he was once beloved for.
With the Bulls trailing 95-94 with four seconds left in regulation, Rose drew a foul and found himself at the free throw line with the game on the line. Rose only made one of two free throws and forced overtime, but Rose couldn’t stomach letting his team down.
He also said that he needs to work on his free throws. That’s the only free throw he’s missed in this series.
When Rose is playing like this and doing it with the grace we all know he’s capable of, every fan can see a bit of themselves in him. If Rose can sustain multiple career ending injuries, see his god given gifts diminish, and still comeback to show us even a glimpse of his old self, then we should be to do anything.
Rose’s story isn’t even close to being over. There’s no guarantee he’s back for good. For now, he’s rejuvenated a city and made fans feel like the glory days of the 90’s aren’t so far away. Seeing Rose play this well makes every fan remember why they were a fan in the first place. That doesn’t mean the Bulls will win the NBA title or even make it past the next round, and it definitely doesn’t mean Rose will ever win MVP again. Above all else, it makes fans do something they haven’t done in a long time. Believe.