JULIAN WYLLIE | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
When Derrick Rose, starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls, suffered his first season-ending left knee injury during the playoffs in 2012, head coach Tom Thibodeau defended the decision to keep Rose in the game, well after the score suggested the Bulls would defeat the Philadelphia 76ers.
“The Sixers had whittled a 20-point deficit to 12 when Rose jump-stopped and elevated,” according to an ESPN article published that year. “He grabbed his left knee as he landed with 1:22 left and the Bulls leading 99-87.”
As a result, Rose writhed in pain before he was carried off the court. The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player at the time underwent an MRI that revealed he tore his ACL.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. It is far too easy to criticize management or teammates who supported the decision to keep him in the game. No one could have predicted Rose would face repeated knee ailments in his brief but illustrious career.
To Bulls fans, Rose is not just an athlete. He is certainly not Michael Jordan, a six-time NBA champion, five-time Most Valuable Player or a 14-time All Star, but Rose represents what Bulls fans needed most after Jordan’s exodus: Hope.
After Jordan retired for a second time in 1998, avoiding baseball in this instance, and then returned to play for the Washington Wizards in 2001, the Bulls were in desperate need for a star to claim the light the former basketball god once possessed.
After a decade filled with 10 losing seasons, six of them running consecutively, Rose leapt into the Windy City after only one season at the University of Memphis.
In college, Rose did not miss a single game. He led his team to the national championships only to fall to the University of Kansas and current Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers hit a three-point shot to send the game into overtime, while Rose was criticized for missing free throws that could have sealed their fate as potential champions.
But despite his shortcomings and controversies in college, including concerns with his academic scores, Rose, for lack of a better term, rose to the occasion and mounted the throne as the best point guard in the league in 2011, denouncing talented stars in the making including: Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Russell Westbrook.
Unfortunately, for Bulls fans and Rose, time has not been forgiving. He suffered another season-ending knee injury in 2013 when he tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. Now Rose needs another surgery on the same knee, but Bulls medical experts said this next surgery will be relatively minor.
As of now, the left knee he tore in 2012 has stabilized.
Regardless of the outcome this season or the seasons to come, Rose will always have a strong support system from his teammates and the Bulls fanbase. But one must consider the long-term effects for Rose and the Bulls organization.
If this occurs again and again, it would be wise for the team to look for suitable alternatives for the near and distant future.
This will not be an easy transition in any form or fashion, however, since Rose is known as the hometown hero, the star who was born and raised in the slums of the Chi-town’s South Side, an inspiration for millions across the country, African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic and everything in between.
If one thing can be taken from Rose’s health concerns in the past three seasons, fans have learned that Rose is not just another basketball player with an orange orb in his hands. He is the symbol of a brighter tomorrow, post-Jordan era—another sky-rising, mountain climbing blur, only this time, this rendition rocks Adidas sneakers like a poet from Run DMC.
Not a soul knows what the future holds for Derrick Rose. Perhaps he will finally break free of the chains that shackle his knees. Maybe he will one day claim the titles and accolades his fans believe he can achieve.
But maybe he won’t, as sad as that sounds, and we all must accept the possibility of this outcome. For fans, and the few haters everywhere, only one truth remains: We will all just have to wait and see.