It was all going so well for the Chicago Bulls and starting point guard Derrick Rose in the spring of 2012.
The Chicago native had become the youngest player in the history of the National Basketball Association to be selected Most Valuable Player – the award given annually to the best player in the league – the previous season.
Bulls fan and Chicago-area native Aisosa Omorogbe remembers when he first heard of Rose.
“I remember the first time I heard about Derrick Rose was when my friend told me we had just drafted a sure thing. And he did turn out to be a sure thing, for a while at least”
Omorogbe, a 21-year-old medical student at Loyola University Chicago, moved to the United States when he was just 10 years old. It was around this time, he says, that he started to become a Bulls fan.
“When I first moved here when I was 10 from Nigeria, all I ever watched was soccer and cricket. But my father had been living here for a while and had become an NBA fan thanks to Michael Jordan. He used to have these drink coasters with the six NBA championship rings, they were super cool.”
Rose, affectionately known as “D-Rose” or “Poohdini”, was not just a name on Chicago Bulls fan’s lips. NBA fans around the country were in awe of his greatness, most of which he had yet to fulfill.
Ryan Hayes, a Detroit Pistons fan from Michigan who recently graduated from Loyola Chicago, also remembers watching Derrick Rose play in his prime.
“I just remember how explosive this guy was, he was a short dude yet he was dunking on people and flying to the rim at all times. He was a completely different player”
And three years into career his career, it seemed Rose had the league in his hands, ready to knock LeBron James and the Miami Heat off the NBA throne
Then, the unthinkable happened.
“Yea, I remember where I was when I first heard he got hurt,” recalls Omorogbe. “I was studying in my dorm when my friend burst into the room and said that D-Rose was seriously hurt. I was shocked.”
The Bulls were playing the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs and were blowing out their Eastern Conference counterparts when Rose collapsed to the floor awkwardly, grabbing his knee. He tore his ACL and was done for the 2012 playoffs and 2013 season, yet Bulls fans would soon find out the road to recovery was much longer.
Then came the Adidas commercials, the ones depicting a city frozen in time, waiting for the return of one of it’s own sports heroes. A return that wouldn’t come for another year. Rose would injure his right knee only weeks after his first comeback, shutting him down once again for most of the 2014-2015 NBA season.
“Yea, those probably didn’t help too much. It was a big risk by Adidas that didn’t pay off,” says Hayes, who thought the ads were a bad idea when they first aired.
“There was just way too much hype surrounding his return and the ads definitely contributed to that,” says Omorogbe. “Everyone put too much pressure on him to comeback as his old self. Maybe that is what did him in.”
So, what does an ardent Bulls fan like Aisosa Omorogbe think of Rose now?
“He has already given so much to this city and vice versa, I think now would be a good time to end the relationship and go both ways,” Omorogbe lamented. “I don’t think he’ll ever be what he used to be, an MVP.”
What about an NBA fan like Ryan Hayes? Does D-Rose owe anything to the Bulls or vice versa?
“Absolutely not. He signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls and they had to honor it no matter what. They knew the injury risk involved with highly paid athletes and unfortunately it backfired on them,” Hayes reiterated. Being a Pistons fan means Hayes has no loyalty to either team or player, which gives him a little more objectivity when it comes to this topic.
It’s clear that the relationship between Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls and their fans has been rocky for some time. And with his impending free agency just around the corner, the Bulls and D-Rose will have a huge decision to make.
While D-Rose hit the professional basketball scene running, winning the MVP trophy in only his third NBA season, it is safe to say that his time in Chicago has been disappointing until now. His multiple injuries and set-backs have soured his reputation amongst a fan base who once adored their hometown hero. Is it too late for Rose and the Bulls to make amends, or will Rose leave once his contract is up? One question Bulls – and NBA fans – will be asking themselves for a long time is “what if…?”