Rose continues his story–and it could be history


Dec 21

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History is most difficult to recognize when you are watching it occur. You sort of have the idea you may be seeing something special, but you never can fully grasp the significance, from Abraham Lincoln’s words to Babe Ruth’s deeds.

After all, you figure, if you are there it is just life. But as it’s been said, the biography of great people becomes history. And if the path of the Bulls’ Derrick Rose isn’t exactly great moments for mankind, it may well be something unique in sports. It doesn’t seem possible, or fair, really, to have it twice after the Bulls had Michael Jordan.

But keep watching this Rose kid and his team. They may be on the verge of some very special things.

That thought occurred Wednesday watching Rose as he met reporters after the Bulls announced his five-year contract extension for the maximum period and most allowed, about $95 million. It is technically $94.8 million now. But because it is based on 30 percent of the salary cap, which is expected to rise, it should be about $100 million in the end.

Consider this as an aside and then we’ll dispense with the unfair and unnecessary Jordan comparisons. Jordan was paid about $90 million total in his entire NBA career. I talked to former Bulls All-Star Chet Walker Wednesday and he told me when he came to the Bulls in 1969 as an All-Star and second highest scorer on a championship team he was paid $40,000.

Yes, that is history as well.

Rose was endearing, as usual, especially because anyone who’s been around him knows it’s simple and genuine. Rose doesn’t know how to play to the audience or cameras, other than when he has a basketball in his hands, perhaps.

It was particularly sweet when he turned to his inspiration, his mother, Brenda, and with a shy smile said, “I think I can finally say this now, ‘Mom, we finally made it.’”

It is the dream of every kid growing up anywhere, but certainly on the rough and rugged South Side, Englewood, where Rose came from, to dream the big dreams of making it in the pro sports leagues, getting out of the neighborhood to buy the big houses and big cars, the so-called American dream we so glorify but is in the hearts of everyone, everywhere.

“Coming from where I’m coming from, I can’t explain it,” Rose said. “I can’t explain it. I never would have thought in a million years that I would have signed a contract like this, especially coming from an area where I’m from. No one from Englewood has ever been in my position so sometimes I think, ‘Why me?’ I don’t even know how much I make. I watch my accounts. They are growing. I am happy. Everything has been perfect. I could not ask for anything better.”

You’d say Rose hit the lottery. But it is the Bulls who hit the lottery, literally with the NBA lottery drawing the one season in the last seven they missed the playoffs in 2008 and in the prodigy Rose being there. And figuratively with a player like Rose.

Everyone likes to assign strategy and scheme to success. But it is more serendipity, and then what you do with it.

In Rose, the Bulls have an elite sports star, which is rare. There is no one now among Chicago sports figures who comes close to approaching what he is in his game. He’s special to watch and with those kinds of players comes the opportunity for ultimate success. And basically only with those kinds of players. And when you have one it’s what you do with him, and the Bulls appear in position now to take advantage.

I was there in the late 1980’s with Jordan and few in Chicago were viewing that as historic because of the failures to reach ultimate success. You didn’t have time to sit back and breathe in the efforts because you were looking for something more. So you should stop and smell the sneaker squeak — can you do that? — with Rose because he could be that kind of unique athlete who makes history. It will be for others to write it. And observe.

You always feel good when you watch Rose at these things. He thanked God “for blessing me with this incredible talent,” which is exactly right. That is good fortune. You can work at it all day, but if there’s no gold in that rock you aren’t getting rich.

He thanked the Bulls, his family, the coaches, teammates, trainers, the fans, the city, his friends, and especially for not being “yes men who told him what he wanted to hear.” Made him better, he said. Rose talked about the organization bringing in the players with the right attitude and the possibility of a championship, of his legacy being known only as a winner and doing whatever it takes to get there.

And this Bulls team can. Really. Last season I doubted it, and they came much closer than I ever imagined they could. This time that “It” seems there, what some call swagger or confidence. But when you watch this Bulls group you see a belief you didn’t see before. You may have heard it said, but it seemed hollow. No longer.

And perhaps another example was Rose and his extension. Not to say the other guys are wrong, but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Chris Bosh and basically all the guys who get those big deals have an opt out clause. You know, in case it doesn’t work. Rose waived his in his contract, GM Gar Forman said. It means he’s staying with the Bulls. He’s taken a marriage vow he wants to live up to. The Bulls are grateful and relieved. Coach Tom Thibodeau joked he only wished the deal could be for 10 years.

Five years is the maximum in this labor deal added on to the one season Rose is playing on now.

Rose laughed and said he’s in Chicago “unless they trade me.” Everyone laughed, Bulls officials more nervously. Don’t even mention that around them.

Rose noted, as he did after Tuesday’s game when word first came out about his deal, that if he was going to change by making a lot of money ($7 million this season) he would have already. “I don’t spend that much,” Rose noted. He talked about giving back to the community, which he already does, and remaining humble, which he cannot seem to avoid. With him it is no act.

“With the guys we have we have a good chance to go out and play for a championship,” Rose said. “I think we can compete with some of the best teams.”

I know it’s not often mentioned amidst media absorption with Miami, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. But the Bulls have the most depth, the MVP, the most size, the coach of the year and the kid who seems pretty good at predictions.

“First we made it to the Finals,” noted Rose. “So you try to do better than last year.”

The Bulls could do that this season. And why not? Rose might say. It could be about making history. Which would be a good time to watch and savor.

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