I am writing this letter, supporting point guard Derrick Rose continuing to play in the Garden.
At the end of the past season, Rose tallied 18.3 points per game. The last game played, he injured the meniscus in his left knee. Playing through the pain, when he left the game, Knicks winning, he’d scored 27 points. The fans gave him a standing ovation.
More than once they’d seen Rose explosively take off, as though a missile launched from a launcher—breaking down opposing teams’ defense, opening teammates up for perimeter shots. If failing to do so, twisting his body with the grace of a ballet dancer, Rose takes the ball down in the “hole,” spinning it off the glass into the hoop. When he makes this shot, fans, in awe, erupt in a thunderous roar.
Rising out of the impoverished Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, raised by a loving mother and three older protective brothers, Rose tirelessly worked to perfect his basketball skills. Easily the best high school point guard in the nation, he attended the University of Memphis for one year—dazzling fans with his acrobatic play. When Chicago Bulls contracted him, Rose was blessed and cursed. Blessed because he’d received a multimillion dollar contract to play in the NBA; cursed because at such a young age, 19, he went to play there, with the front office failing to protect him.
Having seen his mom struggle to keep a roof over the family’s head, Rose bought his mom a lovely home. He also took steps to lift his brothers, other family members and childhood friends out of poverty—doing what he’d always done, caring for others. At age 15, sitting on his porch with relatives one evening, he broke down and cried, overwhelmed by the killings enveloping his neighborhood.
Becoming Rookie of the Year in 2009, the youngest MVP in NBA’s history in 2011, Rose contributed millions to youth projects in Englewood. Whenever a youth fell dead from violence, he paid funeral costs and even attended some of the funerals.
Rose’s fortunes were indeed a curse to him. The very nature of a young buck is to believe he’s invincible. As an NBA player, always with cash in his pockets, moving from city to city, getting to know fans in the cities he visited, the new stimuli drove his adrenaline sky high, causing him to sometimes play the game tired, risking injury. By his own admission, he “recklessly” played the game—experiencing injuries.
Bouncing back from injuries that would have broken most athletes, enduring the betrayal of the Bulls’ front office—their “What have you done for me lately” mindset is a sentiment that permeates the NBA—Rose learned from the experience, and continued to magnificently play the game.
Is Rose perfect? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. But who hasn’t? At age 28, Rose has encountered more adversities than most people experience in a lifetime.
That Rose is a loving son, a loving dad of a 5-year-old, PJ, loyal to his entire family and friends, a generous philanthropist, sensitive to the pain of his neighbors, highly respected by teammates and NBA players, was never once involved in altercations on or off the court and saved his money, speak volumes about the strength of his character.
Walking west across 163rd Street on a balmy day, I encountered three young Turks, two Blacks and one Latino, walking in my direction. With yards separating us, I could hear the one dribbling a basketball, mimicking Rose’s moves on the court, chanting “Derrick Rose! Derrick Rose! I am Derrick Rose!”
Rose is good for the Knicks and good for the youth of New York City and the state. Rose should stay in the Garden.