When it comes to Chicago sports legends, the winds of past greatness blow strong through the Windy City with the memories of Mike Ditka, Frank Thomas, Scottie Pippen, Ryne Sandberg, Gayle Sayers, Dick Butkus, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Walter Payton and, of course, Michael Jordan.
Chicagoans have been, and always will be, extremely reserved when it comes to bestowing the mantle of legendary greatness upon an athlete. This is not a title that can be easily garnered by simply having had a good season here and there. That title is reserved for those who have proven themselves over the long haul.
While it is far too early to know if Chi Town has another legend in the wings, the collective eyes of the city's sportswriters, analysts and fans are all watching to see if the next legendary breakout will be in the person of the Bull's point guard Derrick Rose.
Rose on the Rise
Born Derrick Martell Rose on October 4, 1988, in Chicago, Derrick's grandmother nicknamed him "Pooh" because she felt he looked like a little version of author A.A. Milne's silly ol' bear. As a young boy, growing up on Chicago's Southside, "Pooh" showed signs of athletic prowess while in elementary school. At Beasley Academic Center, he handily made the school's basketball team, where in short order he proved to possess a talent that was way beyond his teammates, or even that of most boys his age.
Derrick's precocious play was welcomed by the coaches of the Simeon Career Academy where he continued to amaze with his dedication and talent. In his senior year, he led the Simeon Wolverines through a season that culminated in winning the Illinois High School Association Class AA State Boys Basketball Championship.
Named USA Today's National High School Player of the Week, Derrick also received numerous other accolades for having averaged 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 3.4 steals. He followed in the footsteps of Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett and Eddy Curry by being named Illinois' Mr. Basketball and was selected to play for Team USA in the Nike Summit Game and for the West in the McDonald's All-American Game.
Derrick's outstanding performances in the Nike Summitt and McDonald's All-American games respectively saw the USA Junior National Select Team defeat the World Select Team by 20 points and the West down the East in a two-point squeaker. The showcase of his talents in those games also garnered the attention of pro scouts who reportedly topped their lists with his name followed by notes calling him the most outstanding and promising point guard in the nation.
Following Derrick's high school graduation, University of Memphis basketball coach John Calipari could not have been more thrilled when he received the news that the country's most outstanding and promising point guard had made the decision to matriculate at Memphis and join the Tigers.
Derrick got off to an impressive start at Memphis. In his freshman year he averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals while making 48 percent of his shots from the floor. He was lauded for his leadership as well as his outstanding defensive skills and was recognized as the driving force that led the Tigers to a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
It was during that tournament, as Memphis advanced to the finals, that Derrick had even more pro scouts salivating over the prospect of his having a future career with their respective teams. Still, while Derrick's play was spectacular, it wasn't enough to top the University of Kansas who grabbed the championship title from the Tiger's in overtime.
A Bullish Move
Following that game, after playing only one year of college basketball, Derrick made it known that he had made the decision to declare for the NBA Draft. Selected by the Bulls as the number one draft pick, Derrick was thrilled to be playing for his hometown team and honored to be the first point guard to be chosen as the number one pick in the NBA Draft since Allen Iverson got the nod over a decade earlier.
Suiting up for the Bulls, Derrick wasted no time in proving he was worthy of NBA play and being viewed as a potential candidate for inclusion on Chicago's legendary athletes roster. During his rookie season, as the Bulls starting point guard, he averaged 16.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds while hitting 47.5 percent of his shots. His play, coupled with his team leadership, saw the Bulls rise to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs and play in a seven-game series against the defending World Champion Boston Celtics.
In his first professional playoff game, Derrick led the Bulls to a two-point overtime win. He scored 36 points, which tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's points scored by a player in their playoff debut. In game six, Derrick's play helped force a seventh game for the series in which he would ultimately average 19.7 points, 6.4 assists and 6.3 rebounds. While the Bulls' season ended without a championship, Derrick wrapped up that year by joining Michael Jordan and Elton Brand as the only three Bulls players to be named the NBA's rookie of the year.
Derrick's second professional season started slowly as he recuperated from an ankle injury he sustained early in the preseason. While he did not appear in another preseason game after his injury, he did start in the Bulls opener against the San Antonio Spurs. After only minutes on the court, it was clear that Derrick was still hurting and his play was limited throughout November.
By January of 2010, Derrick's injury was well behind him and he was named to his first All-Star Team. His All-Star appearance saw him contribute eight points, four assists and three steals. That season also saw the Bulls once again make it to post-season play. In the 2009-10 playoffs, he averaged 26.8 points and 7.2 assists, but the Bulls still lost in five games to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As the following season began, Bulls fans expected nothing less than another season of phenomenal play from Derrick and post-season play from the team. Derrick delivered as the Bulls scored 62 wins and chalked up the best record of the 2010-2011 NBA season.
In late January, it was announced that Derrick would once again be named to the All-Star Team - and not as a reserve as he was the first time, but as a starting guard. The following month, in a winning romp against the San Antonio Spurs, Derrick chalked up a regular season career high of 42 points, along with eight assists and five rebounds.
In the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the Bulls downed both the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds. In the Eastern Conference Finals, taking on the Miami Heat, the Bulls were completely shut down, losing the series in five games.
At the conclusion of that season, Rose joined Michael Jordan and LeBron James as only the third player in over three decades to record 2,000 points and 600 assists in a single season. The posting of those impressive numbers saw him named the NBA's Most Valuable Player - the youngest player in NBA history to be so honored and, along with Jordan, the only Chicago Bulls player to have ever received the nod. He was also offered a five-year contract extension for $94.8 million.
The Missed Season
The following season, Rose was again named an All-Star starter - the second leading vote getter behind Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard - and, once again, assisted the Bulls into postseason play. Unfortunately, during Game One of the first round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee which required surgery that took place in May 2012.
After nine months of recovery, Rose returned to full contact practice in January 2013, although he did not appear in a game during the entire 2012-13 NBA season. Even without Rose on the court, the Bulls did get as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they were eliminated by the Miami Heat who would go on to take the NBA Championship title.
While Rose has proven to be of tremendous help in getting the Bulls into the post-season, he and the team have, so far, come up short in their quest to gain ownership of the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy. And, as the 2013-14 season tips off, he knows that nothing matters to Chicago sports fans other than one thing - winning.
He has acknowledged to Chicago sportswriters that the team's ownership, coaches and fans had one expectation of him and his teammates - to win. "Win no matter what," he said. "Trip, kick somebody, fight, bite. Whatever. Win," he added with a laugh.
Great Hopes for More Magic and a Championship
While Rose clearly has both the talent and the desire to win, there are those who question if, as a point guard, he can be the man to lead his team the way Jordan did. It's not like that is unheard of. Isiah Thomas did it with the Detroit Pistons, although he was backed by a supporting cast that had more talent than the one supporting Derrick. One could also argue that during Thomas' rein, back in the 1980s, teams possessed such a heavy depth of talent that at any given time there would be two, three or even more "stars" playing on the floor simultaneously.
So, in today's NBA, can a point guard do what Thomas was able to do? When it comes to Rose, the answer may lie in the fact that he is not your typical point guard. But still, only time will tell. Rose came to the Bulls with the highest of hopes and expectations. And yet, no matter what level of play he personally maintains throughout his career, the cold hard fact is that in order to be anointed with legendary status he will ultimately be judged by the winning of a championship title - and in Chicago's case, multiple championships like Jordan delivered.
One must remember that while Jordan was a phenom beyond phenoms, it was only by bringing home the O'Brien Trophy that he was elevated into Chicago's (and basketball's) elite. To be a part of the Bulls (or any NBA team) as an MVP winner is of course a big achievement. However, it's only one accomplishment. To be a Windy City sports god means going beyond the MVP nod and grabbing the big brass ring - or rather, the big golden basketball hardware.
The good news for Derrick, who turned 25 this past October, is that he has some time to do this. His fellow MVP winner, Wilt Chamberlain, didn't bring home his first championship until he was 30, and Wes Unseld (who prior to Rose was the youngest player to take MVP honors) was 32 when he and his Washington Bullets teammates earned the championship.
Having already been bestowed with the NBA's MVP honors, Derrick knows that he is expected to perform and expected to win. Without a Championship title, no matter how impressive his personal stats may be, he will never be offered membership into that exclusive legends club with Ditka, Thomas, Pippen, Sandberg, Sayers, Butkus, Banks, Sosa, Payton and Jordan.
The pressure on him to deliver a championship to the Windy City is huge - much more so because of the MVP honor. Because of this accolade, throughout his entire career with the Bulls, it will be him that people visualize when they think of the team in general. If the Bulls lose, it will be Derrick's loss. If the Bulls win, it will be Derrick's win.
During a 2013 preseason game, Rose gave promise that he may just live up to the expectations so many have of him. He looked more than promising as he put together 13 points and some highlight-worthy plays as the Bulls bettered the Memphis Grizzlies by 19 points.
This was a performance Coach Tom Thibodeau and Chicago fans have been waiting to see. "Derrick had 10 free throws," Thibodeau told ESPNChicago.com following that game. "He slowed down and [calmed] himself down a little bit after the first couple and started making them. He had a good rhythm going in the third quarter. He's feeling great and you're seeing those explosions to the basket and the burst of speed and attacking. I think he's finding his rhythm."
Finding that rhythm and maintaining it is what Rose must do to prove he can truly be the magician of the midway - he must make the magic happen. And while he is renowned throughout his own franchise and the NBA as a humble guy without a superstar ego, he has to live up to the tattoo he sports on his left shoulder - a basketball-touting magician by the name of "Poohdini."
The Rookie Roses
Once he was named the NBA's MVP, the desirability of Derrick Rose's rookie cards rose to even higher heights. And yet, while they are some of the hottest offerings in the current sportscard hobby, knowledgeable dealers and collectors know there is an ample supply of Derrick Rose rookie cards to choose from and that most are available at very affordable prices.
As with any cards, the pricing and value of Rose's rookie cards is dependent on their scarcity and condition. There is also great promise that Rose will be a major breakout star.
As for the cards that most hobby experts feel are the "must haves" for Rose collectors, the 2008 Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome issues are the ones most often mentioned.
The appeal of the 2008 Topps Chrome Derrick Rose rookie card is its affordability. Even in higher grades they are usually available in a price range that any collector can afford. There is a reason for that. Because of the quality card stock they were printed on, they are very easy to find in extremely good condition.
It should also be noted that the 2008 Topps Chrome set offered refractors and autographed cards that are, of course, much more valuable than the base card.
As for the 2008 Bowman Chrome Derrick Rose rookie card, it was also offered in different variations including refractors, Xfractor and colored refractors. There were also autographed cards inserted into packs of the 2008 Bowman Chrome set.
As with the Topps cards, the base Bowman Chromes are easy to find and very affordable. The signed cards, however, not so much - although many knowledgeable dealers and collectors feel these cards are currently selling for attractive prices that could soar depending on Derrick's future.
While the above mentioned cards, including the inserts, are available in a price range that just about any collector can afford, there are two Rose rookie cards that greatly surpass the affordability factor.
The 2008 Upper Deck Exquisite Derrick Rose rookie card is one of the more expensive ever produced. Needless to say, it is almost impossible to find. Only 99 cards were ever made and each one is individually numbered, hand-signed and includes a game-used jersey patch embed.
Another of the extremely exclusive Rose offerings is the 2008 SP Authentic Derrick Rose rookie card. With a limited run of just 299 cards, these very-hard-to-find cards also carry an authentic autograph and game-used jersey patch embed.
Derek Rose has participated in some private signings since his rookie campaign, producing some authenticated autographs for collectors. With the anticipation of his return before us, the popularity of his signature is sure to see a spike in demand assuming he returns to "Rose" form on the court. Knowing his tenacious nature and will to win, it would be unwise to bet against him.
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