When Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose tore his anterior cruciate ligament on April 28, 2012, in a playoff win against the Philadelphia 76ers, many thought the former MVP would return to form. Yet, the player many had placed in the same stratosphere as other stars is confirming on a daily basis his is not built for such adulation.
On the court Rose is breathtaking; the guard possesses a rare combination of speed, quickness, and explosion. So it appeared imminent that the Bull would someday hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy, and multiple MVPs seemed like a forgone conclusion. However, it appears that this reverie has been interrupted by reality.
A reality that suggests mentally Rose is not equipped to lead the Bulls to the NBA title many so presumptively foreshadowed he would acquire. It is virtually impossible to know exactly what lies in a player’s heart or mind; that is why their actions are so heavily scrutinized. How a player handles adversity on and off the battlefield is the only true gauge one can use to measure their mental toughness.
For example, how a quarterback responds during the final two minutes of a playoff game when their squad is down by four with no timeouts, will far outweigh what he has done when the very same team is leading by 10 in a playoff game.
In short, adversity not only compels the mind but it also challenges the spirit.
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, playing the most important stretch of the season on one leg proved he could not only prosper in pain, but that the quarterback also possessed the linear focus necessary to be a champion.
Or Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan virtually placing his career on the line to suit up the final 18 games of the 1985 – 86 season, to ensure the Bulls would make the playoffs.
That season the unconquerable MJ pleaded with management to allow him to return earlier than they would have liked in an attempt to lead the Bulls to the playoffs. His Airness succeeded in both feats, accomplishing the former in his usual spectacular fashion.
Griffin and Jordan were two completely separate egos, while in the infancy stages of their careers. Yet, both displayed an unquenchable desire to seize victory, regardless of the possibility of disastrous consequences.
To the sane, such a risk far outweighs the reward. Oddly enough, no one would ever accuse Jordan’s desire to win as “sane”, which brings us back to Rose. The guard has progressed in all facets of the physical part of the game. It is the mental, and to be blunt the arrogant facets where Rose continues to struggle.
Does the Chicagoan have the heart to tell twelve men in a timeout “give me the ball and I’m winning this or we’re going to overtime?” Can Rose lead with fear, as well as, talent?
Greatness is rarely obtained by those who are not willing to vacate their normal comfort zone, and often it is those who are willing to push past the limits that realize the pursuit of greatness is limitless. The belief that nothing but amputation will stop these athletes from competing is what thrusts the great to immortal, which again brings back to Rose’s reluctance to return to the floor.
Injuries have long been a part of professional sports, and no champion has escaped its wrath. Most manage to return and never seem to succumb to the fear of a career ending injury or the fear of not being the same player they were prior to the sustained injury. It is one of these fears that Rose has yet to relinquish, and it is that refusal that questions if the Bulls' guard belongs in the same class as a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.
The media has been alarmingly quick to anoint greatness rather than allow an athlete to acquire it.
The Chicago native has the talent of a champion, but does he have the heart of one?
Now to be clear, the question is whether the Bulls’ guard is willing to sacrifice any and everything for the ultimate prize. There is no implication that Rose is soft or lacking the physical toughness to play at a high level.
The question is simple and the answer appears to be evident, what lies in the heart of champions exceeds all else. Here is where the dynamic guard sits. Resting long after being cleared by doctors, and waiting to feel the confidence that should already permeate through his body. The city of Chicago is patiently waiting for their hero to return and their hero is simply waiting on, well no one quite knows, except the aforementioned hero.
Such greatness demands great expectation, and frankly to date, Rose has failed to deliver. In the 2008 National Championship game it was the team's star who went one for two from the stripe, which set the stage for Kansas’ Mario Chalmers to tie the game at 63 – 63 and send it into overtime. Oddly enough Rose did not register a bucket in overtime and the Jayhawks walked away champions.
Before one charges that performance to the game, take a moment and relive the 2010 – 2011 season. The Chicago Bulls finished with the best record in the NBA, 62 – 20, and Rose walked away with the regular season MVP award.
The guard won the award despite averaging fewer points per game (25 to 26), fewer rebounds per game (4 to 7), and a slight .7 more assists per game (7.7 to 7.0) than Miami Heat forward LeBron James. Lastly, in the ever so popular win shares category, Rose fell short to James yet again 13.1 to 15.6. Nevertheless public venom towards James, combined with the best record for Rose’s Bulls, secured the award.
Once again the Bulls’ guard would come up short in the most defining of moments. Chicago would lose to James’ Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals that season. The anionted one shot 36 percent in that series and failed to register more than eight assists in any of those five games.
The most alarming of all those statistics is that the unfathomably talented guard failed to register more than six points in any of the series’ fourth quarters.
Now facing the most arduous of obstacles, the guard has left us again with excuse rather than result. Yes it is normal to have doubt but aren’t superstars suppose to be anomalous?
Aren’t superstars cut from a different cloth than you and I? They are known to rise above all and provide confidence where doubt may lay.
In today’s NBA, players are often given the title of superstar before truly obtaining such a level.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Steve Nash is the only back-to-back MVP award winner to never have played in an NBA Finals game. Such a travesty is not the fault of Nash, but just another example of how today’s fan sometimes confuses anticipation with achievement.
Jordan, Bryant and James faced public crucifixion before being called champions. Allen Iverson had to be banned from the league to stop his pursuit of a title. John Stockton broke his leg on June 29th and returned to play in the Olympics by August 2nd, because that is what superstars do.
Superstars, in a word, overcome; regardless of the sport or forum a superstar will overcome.
Rarely does a superstar choose not to play when glory is on the line.
The Bulls’ guard should take all the time he needs in returning from such a catastrophic injury, and we as fans should take equally as much time identifying physical AND mental greatness to avoid such miscalculations in the future.
Rose’s reluctance to return to the game is another reminder that the Chicago star has not earned the stripes that have been bestowed upon him. It is another reminder that he has yet to morph from star to superstar.