Different epithets are used to describe top-level NBA players. You mostly hear words like great, amazing, special. But not many of them are described as different. That label is used only a few times in a single generation.
Young Derrick Rose was different. He was freakishly athletic, to the point, it was almost unheard of what he was doing on the floor. It was sheer explosiveness. Rose probably didn't have the highest vertical ever or was the quickest ever, but he had a special flare to him. Everything he did looked amazing. Especially the way he finished at the rim. His layup package to this day may be one of the best we've seen.
You know how the Rose story goes; after getting drafted no.1 by his hometown Chicago Bulls in 2008, Derrick won the Rookie of the Year award and was heading for NBA stardom. He officially became it's member after he had won his regular-season MVP, becoming the youngest player in league's history to do so. The stars were aligning for him to take over the league until the injury happened.
Let's stop right there! Let's discuss Rose up until he tore his ACL in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. I would say that at the time he was up there as the most talented player in the league, and he already had some accolades to show for. His former teammate Rip Hamilton would even take it one step further.
“I played with a lot of great players. Derrick Rose, during that time, was probably the most talented player I ever played with.”
Rip Hamilton, SHOWTIME Basketball
Quite a thing to say, especially from the guy who has played with the likes of Mitch Richmond, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and a 38-year old Michael Jordan. In Rip's words, Rose was the most talented teammate he ever had.
Hamilton joined the Bulls the year Rose's ACL injury happened. He saw the Bulls as the best fit and wanted to play with a young superstar. Rose led his team to 50 wins during that lockout season, tieing San Antonio Spurs' regular-season win total. Chicago was ready to make a deep playoff run, but unfortunately for all NBA fans, it wasn't meant to be.
Questions were asked about why Tom Thibodeau kept Rose in the game when the Bulls were up 12 with 1:20 left on the clock. And that's fair. Rose should've been on the bench. But it's Thibodeau; his whole philosophy is centered around overloading the starters. It was an unfortunate moment that could've been prevented. But then again, who knows. Maybe it just would've been postponed. Maybe Rose's knees couldn't hold on anymore.
Nevertheless, Rip had a full season of sharing a locker room with the league's youngest MVP. Judging by what he said, he had seen enough.
“Listen, none of them dudes wanted no smoke with Derrick Rose in the Derrick Rose era. I'm tellin' you right now. None of them dudes wanted no smoke with D-Rose during that time.”
Rip Hamilton, SHOWTIME Basketball
One season with Rose was enough for Rip to say he was heading for an all-time great NBA career. And all who watched him would say the same thing. Prime D-Rose was just different. He was so hard to contain. And he was only getting better.
Instead, he had to settle for being a good NBA player he is today. Rose never broke 20 PPG after he recovered from his ACL tear. It was more about surviving in the league than ever again, reaching the same level of play as before the injury. And I'm not talking about his numbers, but more about how difficult it was for him to consistently stay healthy, as he only played in 317 regular-season games in his seven years after the surgery.
Today, Rose is a good NBA player. A borderline starter on a solid team. He's coming off a very good season with the Pistons when he averaged a career-high in FG% and was scoring the most points after 2011-12 season. Rose completely transformed his game. He developed a very good in-between game and is still trying to find his groove as an outside shooter.
He isn't doing his flashy layups and thunderous dunks anymore. And you know what? I'm ok with it. I prefer him playing basketball consistently. It seems like that's all D-Rose really wants. He's been through so much during his career all he now wants is to play. And that's all I want for him. It's time for a narrative switch from what could've been to what will be. It's all in Rose's hands.
Until then, we can only reminisce about the young kid with no.1 Bulls jersey on. Because that boy was different.