Rose is Most Valuable Player… and person


May 3

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It’s rare when you see Derrick Rose uncertain, hesitant, overwhelmed by the moment, when his cool, stoic exterior is rocked by emotion.

Not to say he doesn’t experience normal, human feelings. Though too often we view our sporting heroes, the Olympians of our society, through a prism of dispassionate cool and even tempered separation, that the Herculean sporting tasks they are empowered to perform raise them beyond us, to divine level.

But they bleed and they burn, as well. Many of us who are around sporting stars are asked what they really are like, what beats and stands behind that curtain of eminence.

For Derrick Rose, who Tuesday was officially named the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player, the game’s greatest individual honor, it is the foundation that made the man, albeit young, but wise in sporting accomplishment and humanity.

Rose was presented with the award late Tuesday afternoon, and in his remarks thanked, “God for giving me the ability to go out and play the way I’m playing.”

There will be a pregame presentation Wednesday before Game 2 with Atlanta.

Rose thanked his teammates, friends, the Bulls management, his trainers, representatives, the former Bulls and coaches and fans.

He talked fondly about his family, his brothers who guided and shielded him through the rough times growing up on the South Side of Chicago.

“You are the ones who pushed me every single day, made sure I was on the right path, made sure I got to practice and stayed on the right path. I’m blessed to have you in my life,” Rose said.

And then he talked about Brenda Rose, his mother.

Rose stumbled as he began to choose the words, an uncertainty we never witness in his basketball. The memories whizzed by in his head like the fast breaks he so mesmerizes the sporting world with.

“Thanks to my mom,” Rose said, stopping, trying to draw a breath, his eyes welling. “Brenda… My heart, the reason why I play the way I play… Just everything… Just knowing the days I the days I didn’t feel like going to practice…”

Rose stopped again, his mind obviously racing back and leaping from one day to another, to crisis and incident, and mom always there, always with the firm hand and kind word. When you grow up in that area without a two parent family, with the violence and poverty surrounding you, it’s not only difficult but debilitating.

But Brenda was strong when others weren’t and she worked harder and longer to provide for her family, and for the kid, Derrick. We see that loyalty and humility in Rose, but also the strength and resolve that comes from a model of stability and perseverance.

“Me having a hard time waking up, she had to go to work to make sure all of us were all right,” said Rose. “Those were hard days. My days should not be as hard.

“You,” Rose said looking into his mom’s eyes in the front row, “kept me going every day and I love you and I appreciate you in my life.”

Everything that is Derrick is Brenda, and everything that Derrick ever has goes to Brenda. Though Rose did laugh when he asked his mom, who proudly embraces the evidence of what is becoming a Hall of Fame career, to let him keep the MVP trophy for a few days before she gets it.

“I want to have the trophy a couple of days before she steals it,” Rose said with a laugh. “Give me two or three days, Mom.”

This is a big deal, and not just because of all the MVP chanting all season and this being the premier NBA award. Rose becomes the youngest ever to win it in a landslide over runner-up Dwight Howard. Rose received 1,182 points and 113 first place votes to Howard’s 643 points and three first place votes. LeBron James was second in first place votes with four. Everyone who won the award before 2000 is in the basketball Hall of Fame, and none of those since are eligible in being active or recently retired. This is an historic talent the Bulls have once again and one Chicago can embrace like never before.

Rose joins Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Larry Bird, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade among those only able to average at least 25 points, 7.5 assists and four rebounds in a season.

This is a Chicago kid. Born here, growing up here, playing here and with just a year stop at the U. of Memphis being part of the fabric of the community. He represents more about Chicago and basketball than anyone who has come before him for his roots and his dedication and current success with the Bulls. He’s handled the pressure of playing in your home town with the same confidence and self-effacement that endeared him to so many while growing up and empowered him to reach the standards he’s achieved at such a young age.

Here was a kid who in an age and era of ostentation and bombast, quietly demurred on the court with lesser personal statistics so others could get scholarships in high school, had a better chance at a pro contract in college. You serve and you sacrifice, lessons he learned watching his mom and his small, tight family.

Derrick doesn’t speak that much, never has and still doesn’t.

But he watches.

“When I was younger,” Rose said, “I only thought about playing in the NBA. I didn’t think about rookie of the year or All-Star, only playing in the NBA. This award puts me over the top. It makes you think (you can do) anything. I’m the type of guy who feeds off anything. I’m quiet. I watch a lot of things. I watch you the whole time you are around me.”

We like to develop psychological profiles of our sporting stars, our politicians, entertainers, imbue them with larger motives and ambitions.

Not to say Rose didn’t have dreams and desires like anyone else. But he is mostly a simple and pure young man dedicated to a discipline and homage.

It truly is a rare combination these days, where talent, dedication and lack of entitlement meet, where those who watch him are fortunate and those who know him are prosperous in their own personal inventory.

Of course, this award comes not for decency but basketball brilliance. And Rose has been all of that from the day in preseason he asked—not predicted—why he couldn’t be the league MVP, a moment now often looked back upon with amusement and awe.

“I was saying I wanted to be the MVP,” Rose explained, as if those of us there didn’t long know. “I wasn’t trying to be cocky. I knew I had put in a lot of hard work in the offseason. I wanted to push myself. That was it.”

Why not me? Why not now? Don’t let others decide who you are and who you should be.

No one thought that could be Rose, not with LeBron and Wade and Kobe and Durant and Howard and Dirk. Heck, Rose wasn’t even considered one of the top three point guards. But it’s a great lesson even if Rose would never pose it that way. You take what you have and apply it within your universe and why can’t you. No, all the work Rose may do won’t likely help him find a cure for cancer. But if you select a discipline and work, it doesn’t matter what they think. Only what you do.

Rose being from Chicago also understood better than others what sporting success means here.

“Coming from Chicago, Chicago has been waiting being in a drought, waiting for something to happen,” said Rose. “It feels good when you go out to hear people chant for you, hear your teammates talking he way they are treated the same. You can be me or the last person on the bench. The fans are great.”

Rose understands Chicago, the Second City mentality, the Midwestern flyover zone. He knows about seeking success, but something that always struck me about Rose was when he talks about the Bulls championships of the ’90s. Of course, he was young. He remembers some, but what he remembers more was while the games were on he was at the park playing. That is Chicago, really. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. It’s not about the celebration as much as the journey and the satisfaction of achievement.

And doing so as a group, with friends and family.

Rose was asked about being the hunted now, and he acknowledged. No matter, he said.

“I’ve got my teammates behind me,” he said. “I’m all about winning. My teammates are great. They don’t think about how many points they score. Management picked great guys who are winners. I love them.”

That is Rose as much as anyone. I’ve always also been struck not only by his eagerness to improve, but an amazing, sincere desire to help. I hear countless times from teammates and coaches how when Rose comes out of games his questions always are what he can do to get someone going more, to help someone struggling, how he can change his game to help the group.

Really, it’s what a family does, and a team, at heart, is a family. You do what you can to help your brothers and sisters because when they are happy you can be happier.

“Growing up where I grew up I stayed on the right path because of my family,” Rose reiterated. “I did not want to get in trouble with by brothers and my mom. So I made sure I did the right things.

“My family is very small, very small,” said Rose. “Being around the neighborhood, my brothers always were around. I didn’t want to be in any trouble. I knew my mom and brothers would find out. I didn’t want to hurt my mom or brothers’ feelings. When I was in high school, they built a wall around me. Knowing it was all love I knew it would pay off.”

For many players, it’s too much playing where they were raised, but Rose says he loves the pressure, if that’s what it is. Not really for him. As he always says, he’s a baller. It’s ballin’.

“I want the pressure as a player,” Rose said. “It makes you perform better playing here every night. This is where I’m from. Bringing the excitement back to the city means a lot.”

No matter the circumstances, the thrilling win or debilitating loss, I’ve rarely seen Rose any different. It’s always about the next time, a view he shares with coach Tom Thibodeau and which has driven this overachieving Bulls team this season. If you put in the work and prepare, you have nothing to be ashamed about but to go out and compete again.

Rose agreed winning an MVP at such a young age is an honor, but only motivates him.

“Winning at 22 makes me want to push harder, work harder, stay in the gym longer,” said Rose. “I’m blessed to have an award like this now.

“It’s a learning process,” Rose said about basketball, if also life. “You go out and have some bad games and bad times, but you have to fight through it.”

It is life in most any big city, anywhere, really. You work and persevere for the good of the group.

“It’s paying off being a gym rat,” Rose said. “I just try to play the game hard and play smart. And I’m from here. It makes you feel special when you are out there. It makes you play harder.”

Derrick Rose is Chicago and Chicago is Derrick Rose. He’s regarded as the best in his chosen profession, at least for now. But the man he represents makes a winner of us all.

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