By: Kwame Fisher-Jones
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was once the center of the basketball universe, and now the guard is no more than a globular cluster of deemed stars. A cluster amounting to what was once perceived as blinding brightness.
Rose’s fall from overrated to unrated has been fascinating, especially considering it has happened on the watch of the very same media that elevated him. As the relevance of the Bulls’ guard dwindles, the difficulty lies in surmising if it was hype or agenda that accompanied Rose to a level he has still yet to attain. Now the reluctant “star” has gone from top five to not mentioned at all, and it at least appears the former All-Star seems content in his demise. Therein lies the truth of not just Rose, but those so intent on premature elevation. There is a war in today’s basketball world, between perception disguised as analytics and reality defined as on court production. Numbers and intention have overtaken time and production. Too many times today’s writers will point to a statistic or numerical achievement to quantify a player who on the court has failed to deliver on blatant talent. This is the peculiar case of Rose. The 2010/2011 MVP award was given to the Bulls guard, but the Miami Heat would go on to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals that season. Led by newly acquired forward LeBron James, the very same James who some felt should have won the regular season award initially.
Since “winning” the M.V.P award, to date the Bulls’ legend has played in 163 of a possible 375 games. Chicago has won 96, or 58 percent, of those contests. The regular season, while important, is just a microcosm of what separates players. It is the playoffs where the former Memphis Tiger has managed to escape culpability. In his singular trip to the Eastern Conference Finals the guard shot 35 percent and the Bulls lost 4 games to 1. Since that trip the 2008 first overall selection has played in 13 playoff games and shot a paltry 39 percent. It is difficult to decipher which result is more appalling, the 39 percent shooting or the 13 playoff games in four seasons or is it the seven wins. These were not the results that seemed imminent based on the way many viewed and discussed the Bull. If not a championship, at least a championship appearance should have been sustained by this juncture. Unless, the hype was more hope than production.
Perhaps reality happened. Perhaps what makes a player truly great cannot be concocted in a laboratory or contrived with fancy Texas Instrument calculators. Time has long been the affirmation in the greatest of sports debates, and time has affirmed just who Rose is. His supporters will point to injuries, a lack of supporting cast, LeBron James, poor coaching philosophies, and even bad tacos in an attempt to justify his habitual shortcomings. To be clear there are always reasons for failure, but that should never excuse them. Nor should those who elevated him be excused. The superstar bar was lowered to include the guard. Much like it has been lowered to include other players who have failed to deliver on their unyielding talent (Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard immediately come to mind).
We were told Rose was the future, and we as fans were witnessing something special. Sadly what we truly witnessed was a premature coronation that has finally given way to sullen dreams. Years have passed since those miscalculations and the benefactor has relished in obscurity. Today the occasional 20 point game is appreciated, but no longer expected. Will he ever deliver on the hype that so many were all too quick to thrust his way? The issue with the former Memphis Tiger has always been the immeasurable. The spectacular play has never been an issue. It is the missed free throw in the 2008 NCAA championship, with an opportunity to put the Tigers up by four. Or it is making just two field goals in the final five minutes and overtime of that championship game.
It is obvious now Rose is who he proclaimed to be on that night in April. The aforementioned poor shooting performance in his one and only trip to the conference finals, in conjunction with Chicago’s four first round exits in seven trips to the post season have confirmed as much. So the question remains why did so many ignore what had been done in hopes of what the guard was unlikely to do. The aggressive rush to anoint a player has overtaken the sports world and has placed players in company they have no business keeping. The truly tragic part is those who are responsible will never be silenced. Derrick Rose’s supposed fall from grace was nothing more than time proving yet again that numbers do lie.