Basketball fans around the country probably haven’t seen much of Chicago Bulls rookie Derrick Rose yet. And they don’t know what they’re missing.
The first thing you notice is his court sense and basketball IQ. He thinks “pass first”, like any point guard should, and he sees the floor well, and gets the ball to open teammates, usually with a bullet pass. He has to be prodded to shoot, although he is taking more shots now, and making them, which forces the defense to start making choices they don’t want to make. 🙂
Then you notice his athleticism. He can jump. Real high. And he has a rare combination of both speed and quickness that make it difficult for most defenders to guard him. On the break, he often runs faster than every other defender, while dribbling and looking for openings. But he seems to hide all this well, with an efficient, almost “sleepy” style of play. He doesn’t waste a single motion, and looks like he isn’t going anywhere, and then, WHOOSH!, he flies by his defender, and the next one, and another one, for a dunk.
Then, his strength. He regularly outmuscles other guards, and even small forwards, and can even take on big guys underneath. And because he is smart, he uses his body well to shield the ball underneath, so never gets blocked. He is a finisher.
After being impressed by those things, you may notice his attitude, towards the game, his teammates, his coaches, the refs, and the fans. He never acts like the world owes him anything. He is quiet, almost too quiet for a point guard, and when he does talk, he mumbles a lot; he may need to learn to become more vocal, and exert his influence a little more resolutely, because he is going to be the leader, and the best player, on every team he plays on for the rest of his career. He doesn’t refer to himself in the third person, or talk himself up.
And with all this, it’s easy to forget, while watching him on the court, that the young man is only 20 years old. He’s just a humble kid, who happens to be a fantastic basketball player.
And even if that were the whole Derrick Rose story, he would be a gem of a player. But there is more, much more, to his story.
He grew up in a notorious neighborhood called Englewood, full of crime, gangs, and urban decay. Neighborhoods like that regularly turn out street kids who are also great basketball players; some of them even go on to college and the NBA. But deep down, they are still street kids.
Derrick Rose is lucky. Very, very lucky. He has three older brothers who had been good basketball players themselves, and who know the gritty realities of street ball in a big city like Chicago. The street agents and hustlers that exploit young, naive players like Derrick all the time, by gaining their trust with lies, and then controlling all access to the player, until the big payday down the road. It’s a slimy business, but young men with no guidance get caught up in it all the time. And it can have serious repercussions, because even if the kid makes it to the NBA, their experience has been that you can’t trust authority figures, because they’re all out to exploit you.
But fortunately for Derrick — and for us — his older brothers Dwayne, Reggie, and Allan took it as their personal mission to protect Derrick from all that. Especially his second-oldest brother Reggie, about 13 years older than Derrick. He basically took the role of father in Derrick’s life. And not just any kind of father; he was Old School.
He controlled everything that Derrick did, and everybody he associated with. He didn’t like some people that came on board the AAU team that Derrick played for, and so he started his own, the Mean Streets Express, and became the coach, taking many of the players with him. He refused media contact until the end of Derrick’s junior season. All recruiting contact had to go through him.
Reggie Rose literally built a protective cocoon around his little brother, to avoid the fate of Ronnie Fields, a contemporary of Kevin Garnett at Farragut Academy, who became a victim of this dysfunctional system because he had nobody looking out for him in that minefield.
Of course, the sharks didn’t much care for all this. But that is just more evidence that Reggie was right. As if we really needed it.
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