By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
To Derrick Rose, a.k.a. D-Rose, a.k.a. Pooh,
The number 50 has a significant meaning no matter the context. It’s the halfway mark to a century, a sign of positivity in application to years lived, and in regards to the NBA it often separates the truly special players who’ve been in the league from the merely good or great. One at least has to be good, most often great, to have a 50-point NBA game on their resume.
You recently accomplished this great achievement of scoring 50 points in a game and caught your entire league and its followers off guard in doing so, some may have even checked their calendars to ensure that it wasn’t 2011 or 2012 as you rang your career-high total up against a helpless Utah Jazz squad.
This achievement not only shows that you still can play at an elite level, Derrick, but highlights the important lesson of perseverance and patience for all, a life lesson that has always spoke to me from throughout my childhood through my schooling and as I endeavor on my young sports journalistic career.
I first knew you were going to be special when I saw you play in 2007 at the Bradley Center during the IHSA state championships in Peoria. As a young 8th grader, fully in my “Ball is Life” stage, watching my state’s Mr. Basketball exhibit unparalleled speed up and down the court was something I have never seen before, it was jarring to see in person.
Your explosiveness to the rim, rising to dunk on big men left and right while using your handles to control the game in every facet of it was breathtaking. In that moment I only become a big fan, but I saw you instantly become one of my biggest basketball idols.
When you went to Memphis, I watched almost every game that I could. I saw the championship game where you hit the big three-point shot to give your team the lead, which was then taken away by Mario Chalmers’ half-court shot that sent the game to overtime, where your team ultimately lost.
As you shook that loss off I followed you through future successes, starting with the 2008 NBA Draft, where our hometown Bulls selected you as the top pick, a wonderful turn of fate. Your electrifying rookie year — where you averaged 17 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field and 79% from the free throw line sealed you the Rookie of the Year award.
Only two years later came your MVP season where behind your leadership the Bulls compiled the best record in the league and fashioned itself as a real contender before falling in the Eastern Conference Finals to the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat. You finished the record season averaging 25 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds on 49% shooting from the field and 86% from the free throw line.
Just as those successes came so did your failures, all starting swiftly with a tear of the ACL in your left knee during the playoffs against the Sixers in 2012. The entire next season was lost, a big comeback was scheduled for the 2013-14 season but that ended tragically only 10 games into it with a tear of the meniscus in your other knee.
The injuries trickled down but the frustrations surrounding you didn’t, LeBron wasn’t leaving the Eastern Conference any time soon so playoff roadblocks existed each year and after enough failed attempts to overtake him our most promising post-Dynasty run ended unceremoniously as your hometown team traded you away to the New York Knicks.
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Then you land in Cleveland and that didn’t work, then you were traded to the Jazz, whose fans for some reason relished disrespecting you even though they knew you weren’t going to be there long. Eventually you were able to reconnect with the coach that helped you become MVP, and with Tom Thibodeau at your back and a few other friendly faces from the Chicago days at your side an environment was developing once again allowing you to prove to everyone that your game was never lost, just transformed.
Watching your 50-point performance made me very proud to see what you can continue to give to the league while still repping the city of Chicago, which is an inspirational story that the youth can follow and relate to. South Side native, Simeon star and current Bulls forward Jabari Parker discussed as much with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson regarding your impact on his life, especially with his experiences through similar injuries.
“Not a lot of people look at a story and appreciate that, from the back,” Parker told Robinson. “When you don’t quit, and you continue on, that’s success in itself, and there’s a lot of people that can use those intangibles for everyday usage, because you don’t have an easy life. Everybody’s dealing with something, and he’s a person that’s pretty much never quitting.”
Over several years I’ve seen you try to hide your pain and agony as you went from surgery to surgery and team to team while fighting the draining mental challenges accompanying the question of whether you will ever be yourself again as an athlete.
But you never gave up, you persevered, and your 50 spot is now a significant chapter written in the “Book of D-Rose: Patience and Perseverance,” a book that is yet to be complete.
After the other evening I’m more confident than ever that more context will be added to your story and it stands a better chance than ever to end as the fully inspirational tale that not only I, but many others will read and be able to apply to their lives. I now look forward to what should hopefully be the highlight of your next chapter — winning the NBA’s 2018-19 Sixth Man of the Year award.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR