By Argie Grigorakos
Since the debut of its hardwood floor, the United Center has showcased many highlights of airborne acts, buzzer beaters, and multiple championships. Legends were continued from the old Chicago Stadium, and all-time greats were solidified. The famous arena will always be remembered for hosting memorable events when it comes to professional basketball. Unfortunately however, Chicago fans have also witnessed tragic history in the building as well. On April 28th 2012, with 1:20 left in the opening game of the NBA playoff schedule, Derrick Martell Rose of the Chicago Bulls crumbled to the ground ailing in pain as play transitioned to the other side of the floor. Eventually his ACL would be declared torn, and his career from that day forward would take an expected turn.
From an early age, Derrick had dreamed of that day, that moment, but an obvious different outcome. As a local product, who had overcame great odds to get to that point of contending for a championship, Derrick had seen it taken away in a single second performing a play he had a thousand times before. Many professional athletes view their body as their temple, investing years in building a core that can sustain the rigors of multiple sport seasons, and performing at a peak level. For the first time in his career Derrick’s body had let him down. Experiencing such a harsh injury can produce great physical pain that few can imagine. However, psychologically not many can overcome the trauma that a severe knee injury can produce. The minute Derrick was helped back to the lock room, one can just imagine the whispers of doubt he heard from the over 20,000 fans that filled that United Center that spring afternoon. From that day forward Pooh had to not only prove something to the millions of fans who would immediately doubt him, but prove something to himself.
He would take the whole 2013 NBA season to rehab his injured knee back to full health, but consequently he would face harsh criticism along the way. Even though medical professionals predict that it takes a full year for an athlete to feel fully comfortable and ultimately healed from such an intrusive procedure, the public would go on to criticize DRose for not returning sooner. Sports viewers had seen the Minnesota Vikings running back of the NFL Adrian Petersen return from a similar injury in 9 months, and many figured Pooh should have done the same. Adrian Petersen was an aberration. Athletes respond to injuries and eventual rehab differently, and thus timetables are not made the same. With the exception of a torn Achilles, the ACL tear may be the worst injury an athlete can experience, so therefore a delicate rehab schedule is strictly advised. In the past, careers would be declared finished once an ACL tear had occurred.
Derrick Rose knew firsthand the long journey that awaited him once rehab started. His older brother Reggie Rose tore his ACL in 1994 and faced similar circumstances going through the process. Reggie wasn’t as talented as Derrick is, but saw some success with the sport as he played collegiate basketball at Idaho. Unfortunately Reggie wouldn’t enter the NBA draft, but maybe more importantly he was present to guide Derrick through the whole process of rehab, including the backlash that was to follow. As months went by, speculation of Derrick’s return would intensify. Fans were becoming frustrated as there seemed to be no sign of a return. National media members were questioning Derrick’s heart, and his mind frame as the intensive rehab was happening. Many were taking to social media to voice their frustrations, and it would be difficult to think the Rose camp wasn’t viewing any of the negative comments. Some were claiming he was scared, and psychologically defeated. In the grand scheme of things, the accusations were ridiculous.
Derrick and his family have faced tougher times than playing a game coming off an injury. Extreme adversity had manifested their everyday lives. The Rose family lived in the Englewood area, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods on Chicago’s South side. Their block on South Paulina Street provided many days of hostility and great crimes, plaguing the families that lived in the area. Shootings have become the norm in the neighborhood and real tragedy has constantly been witnessed. Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times quoted a resident in Rose’s old neighborhood on December 1st 2011 saying, “Our goal is to stop all shooting….We know we can’t but that’s our goal”. For years the trials and tribulations that surrounded the inner city neighborhood saw their youth succumb to the pressures of crime, and the fatal circumstances that followed. Derrick Rose survived all negativity, and became a successful adult despite of it. Yes he had a support system that helped him through the adversity, but he lived through the horror all his life and he is still breathing.
Mr. Rose has shown his toughness all his life, and that is why he was quoted saying, after he injured his other knee playing just 10 games in the 2013-2014 season, ” You can be a fool if you want to (doubting him). I know I’m going to be alright…I could get hurt 10 more times. I’m never going to stop”. The resiliency and drive he showed that day stems from the life experiences he has gathered. Pooh has seen worse, and overcame all obstacles life can present. He has become numb to fear. He became the youngest MVP in NBA history with no fear. He led his team to the Conference Finals in only his third year with all-time confidence. Derrick Rose’s work ethic and drive is what makes him believe he can complete a story book career. Yes he took a year to rehab from an ACL surgery, and another 6-9 months to rehab from a meniscus tear, but he hasn’t stop getting better, stronger and tougher.
When looking at the character of Derrick Rose, one doesn’t have to look further than the opinions of his contemporaries. Pat Riley the Hall of Fame coach, and now President of the Miami Heat was quoted by Vaughan McClure an Editor for ESPN on December 13 2013 saying, “I think Derrick will overcome this….He’s a high-character kid. From that standpoint, I think he’s going to overcome this thing”. Pat, of course was speaking about the injuries Derrick has faced the last few years. Mr. Riley has coached hall of famers, and competed against them, he knows what goes into developing a tough mind and will, and he sees it in Derrick Rose. Later in the ESPN article Riley went on to talk about the fascinating similarities between Rose’s injuries and those that James Worthy experienced over 30 years ago. In speaking of Worthy’s injury in 1983, when he broke his knee cap Riley said, “James Worthy broke his knee cap (in 1983). And then the next year, he had very severe tendinitis. It wasn’t until 1985, after 2 years of injuries that he actually got over the injuries, broke through and became “Big Game James”. Derrick can feel confident that great players before him have faced similar challenges and overcame them. With the advancement in medicine, there should be little doubt that Derrick Rose can once again become an elite player in the Association. It is his will and determination that will help Pooh break through and achieve the goals he had set for himself at Murray Park. Derrick should find comfort in the idea of dodging defenders when attacking the basket next season, instead of dodging bullets in his old Englewood neighborhood.