Overcoming tremendous adversity is what separates the good players from the memorable superstars. Whether it’s combating a debilitating physical ailment or an unexplainable athletic slump, a player who can be triumphant in any high-pressure scenario ultimately becomes an iconic sports figure that inspires others to overcome the impossible. However, some athletes never bounce back from these tribulations. For every unbelievable recovery, there is always a disheartening tale about a player who went down for the count and was never the same afterwards. While Derrick Rose has had to overcome tremendous adversity to get to where he is now, he hasn’t played in an NBA game in over a year. Despite his full recovery and his participation in full contact practice in January, Rose never returned as the Bulls leading man. Whether it was because of the insurmountable mental hurdle of not being ready or an underestimation of his physical well-being is now irrelevant. At this point, only one question truly matters in the grand scheme of this elongated scenario; Can Derrick Rose be a prolific point guard and the legitimate leader this franchise expects him to be.
Amongst the public out cry of several confused and aggravated fans it became clear that Rose was no longer considered an omnipresent sports figure. Everything from his mental will to his overall commitment to his teammates was brought into question. Ever since his devastating injury against the Philadelphia 76ers in game one of the of the first round of last years playoffs, die hard fans had been waiting patiently in anticipation of Rose’s inevitable return. However, what caused the initial uproar from fans after they found out he wasn’t coming back despite being deemed to be in full physical health was the medias attempt to glamorize Rose as a determined and stoic athlete. A couple of months before the start of the NBA regular season, Adidas released a impassioned commercial highlighting Rose’s initial injury along with a brief montage of Rose performing a variety of workouts in an attempt to display his innate drive to return. Eventually, the commercial ends with an emphatic display of a singularly encouraging sentiment; “D Rose Will Rise, Join Him.”
It was this over confident, over the top display that effectively conveyed Rose’s recovery as not only a miniscule hurdle that he would eventually overcome but that his return to prominence was unquestionably imminent. While at the time such an open display of physical aptitude would be admirable and a sensational way to uplift fans from their long endured emotional turmoil, the after math that ensured months later after the airing of this commercial hurt Rose’s reputation and credibility. Even though the commercial in no way explicitly stated Rose’s exact time of recovery or attempted to hypothesize a determined timeline for his rigorous rehabilitation, the fact that it mentioned Rose’s return was enough to incite a nearly universal expectation from fans that Rose would be ready to go for the upcoming season. Since Rose didn’t return throughout the entirety of the regular season while simultaneously refusing to return despite being cleared to play, he came off as a somewhat hypocritical athlete who emotionally pumped up a die hard fan base only to crush their perceived expectations that he would be back stronger than ever.
Still, even with this disastrous attempt to optimistically elevate his then inevitable return, the over whelming support from his teammates appears to paint a different picture. Joakim Noah, the Bulls resurgent center who effectively stepped up as the Bulls determined leader, defended Rose who such a degree of vigor and undying loyalty that it became almost an impossibility to question Rose’s drive and credibility. “Derrick’s a brother,” Noah said following a game one victory over the Miami Heat in the conference semi-finals. “And to see him go through this is tough, but at the end of the day it’s really funny how quick people are to judge. But people don’t know what it’s like to lead a team, especially after you tore your ACL.”
Rose’s head coach Tom Thibodeau also echoed these same sentiments albeit with a more professional and less emotionally driven retort. “Until he’s completely comfortable we don’t want him out there,” Thibodeau said. “You deal with it as best you can. We just want him to continue to work like he has been working. We want him completely healthy.”
In the end, whether you buy into what Rose’s teammates unanimously believe in or if you believe Rose ditched his team without remorse when it mattered most, it can’t be denied what Rose brings to the court given his prolific abilities and unwavering determination when healthy. If Rose can comeback and play with an unquenched competitive nature and the willingness to lead his team to hell and back again, all of the controversies and questions surrounding his absence will be a distant and groundless memory.