Derrick Rose embodies the city of Chicago.
His city is at war and the NBA season begins in almost a month.
After sitting out the entire 2012-13 season to nurse the torn ACL in his left knee, Rose is healthy again and anxious to take on opposing defenders.
He is no longer helpless.
Last week, 13 people, including a 3-year-old boy, were shot at a basketball court in a South Side neighborhood close to where Derrick grew up. The incident was allegedly gang-related and just the start to a weekend which tallied 25 additional victims, five of them fatal.
Practice resumes in less than a week for Rose but the ongoing violence that continues to plague the city weighs heavily on his mind.
“My friend actually coaches right down the street from there and his kids could've easily got out of school and went up to that park and would’ve got shot if they were there,” he says. “It's sad that it happened but at the same time, you got to try to fix it. [But] with me being so busy, and just getting ready for the season, I haven't had time to even touch on the subject.”
Rose is the most influential sports figure in the city yet he’s a mere few years past adolescence. His humble demeanor hardly flosses the multi-million dollar contract he signed in 2011, that will padlock his services to the Bulls for an additional three more seasons. His quest for redemption can be seen in a new Adidas commercial that depicts the prolific point guard as a man on a mission to capture an NBA championship—the ultimate thank you to the fans that supported him during his injury-laden year.
Within the minute-long montage, Rose firmly proclaims that he's “all in” for the city of Chicago.
“Right now, with what my city is going through, it’s a lot of negativity and being 'all in' is me actually taking care, working hard, trying to be the best at my sport and just giving them kids that look up to me something to work for because I know that I'm a role model, even though I'm 24,” he stated. “I know a lot of young kids look up to me and I can't lead them in the wrong direction.”
Rose recently attended a local basketball tournament organized by fellow Chicago native Isiah Thomas in conjunction with St. Sabina and father Michael Pfleger. The Peace Tournament was held in the intimate church gym on the South Side and developed to unite rival gang members from the rough Englewood and Gresham neighborhoods. The event drew a large crowd and several other NBA players were in attendance including Rose’s teammates Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Chicago police patrolled the outside of the venue, while the Nation of Islam handled security inside.
“Growing up in that neighborhood, that could've easily happened to me when I was younger or happened to any one of my friends,” Rose recalls. "I used to really be in that gym when I was younger playing AAU. So for me every chance I get to go back I do. Just by going to that peace tournament and for the kids to see me, I know that it’s touching the kids. When I was younger, I never saw an NBA player, not even glanced at one. They didn’t even come in my neighborhood, so for the kids to see me and see that I'm regular, I hope that they strive for the best like I did when I was younger."
Without Rose, the Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals last season before they were defeated by the Miami Heat. With him at 100 percent, the organization expects to contend for the title and for Rose to return to the MVP-caliber form he exhibited prior to the injury.
With an insuperable amount of expectations resting on his young shoulders, Rose says all he can do now is pray for the [victims] and continue to try to reach people through what he knows how to do best and that's basketball and be real. —Christopher Harris