The current NBA landscape features a dominant superteam. It also has infusion of young and talented players who are poised to take the league by storm over the course of the decade. And it has a breathtaking point guard with a game that’s about as forceful as a hurricane.
If these descriptions sound accurate to encapsulate the current stage, it also rings true if you talk about what it was like in 2011. The Miami Heat were that era’s version of today’s Golden State Warriors. John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Stephen Curry were the young studs ready to make their mark. And the MVP back then? Some guy named Derrick Rose.
It’s easy to look at Rose now and scoff at the kind of player he’s become. He still posts good numbers. He still has a signature shoe. He even still has a household nickname. He’s still D-Rose, except that he also isn’t anymore. This is the tragedy of a player who was once at the top of the league back in 2011, the rising MVP poised to take the throne from LeBron James as the best player of his era.
Derrick Rose had everything, and then he had nothing, all because he was at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
For those who remember the game, the sight of seeing Rose clutching his knee in agony in Game 1 of the Chicago Bulls first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2012 Playoffs is hard to let go. To this day, it’s still seared in our heads like a repressed childhood memory that pops up every time we see the player Rose has become.
It’s hard enough to think about how his career has swooned since tearing his ACL in the last seconds of a game the Bulls were winning by 12, imagine the anguish it must have been to have lived through it, and then suffer subsequent injuries because of it in the process.
See, Rose was never the same after that devastating 2012 ACL injury. He’s shown flashes over the years of the player he once was, but that’s all they’ve been since. Flashes. Always fleeting, never sustaining.
Derrick Rose was Russell Westbrook before Russell Westbrook became Russell Westbrook. Think about it in those terms. He may have never replicated Wesbrook’s triple-double season, but all the things that made Russ the MVP this past season—the ferociousness, the unrelenting style of play, the determination to win at all costs—were the same qualities that helped Rose earn his.
The dude was fast and had serious hops. He was the star of an endless reel of highlights, ones that usually involved him spiking the ball on some poor schmuck in a poster for the ages. If he wasn’t doing that, he was crossing up just about every guard in the league and then bursting to the lane with the fury of a stampeding bull.
It still seems surreal that six years after legitimately challenging LeBron James for the title of best player in the NBA, Rose and James are now teammates, albeit in a far different arrangement than the one the two former MVPs in Golden State share. Curry and Durant are teammates because KD chose to join forces with Steph, who in turn was willing to share the spotlight with earch other. James and Rose are teammates because nobody else would sign the latter to a contract.
This is what’s become of this generation’s forgotten MVP. The man who once dunked a ball so hard on Goran Dragic’s face, he actually spiked it back 20 feet into the air after it bounced off the floor, has been reduced to a mininum contract player.
Derrick Rose’s NBA career shouldn’t have turned out this way. He had the basketball world in the palm of his hands as recently as six seasons ago. He was poised to step out of LeBron’s shadow, ready to become the most relevant NBA player of his era.
Now he’s back to lurking behind James’ looming presence, only this time, D-Rose has become so irrelevant that nobody cares how long he’ll stay there.