Tupac once wrote, “You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete
had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the roses – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals. Don’t ask me why, ask me how!”
At one point in Derrick Rose’s well-documented basketball career, he could do no wrong in the eyes of Chicagoans. He was the tenacious kid from the south side of Chicago with a fierce game yet humble demeanor. He reached the sun despite his adversity and in spite of his damaged petals. He was our Rose that grew from the concrete.
Rose was in a very unique position as the number one draft pick of the Chicago Bulls because he would have an opportunity to restore the hope of Chicagoans suffering from withdrawal after the Jordan era. The hugest and obvious difference is Derrick was born and bred in the Chi so he is special. He was the prodigal son of a tough city. After setting the league on fire by becoming the youngest MVP in history, D. Rose was on top. The beautiful part about that magical season was Rose actually predicted his glory when he so boldly stated, “Why can’t I be the MVP of this league?” While reporters laughed at him, he went on to do exactly what he so said he would do.
Even with that confidence and bravado he still remained the same humble person he always was. He understood his purpose was bigger than basketball from the jump. There is no need to rehash all the up and downs of Derrick’s injuries and returns to the court because everyone knows that. What Rose doesn’t get enough credit for is the impact he has made in Chicago in the Englewood community that raised him and beyond.
From day one Derrick Rose has praised Chicago for all it’s beauty but he has also expressed despair for it’s damaged petals. Whether it’s the damaged communities, impaired mentalities, or underwhelming circumstances that lead to the constant violence in Chicago, Rose has always been an agent of change by lending his voice, time, and money to the city he loves. He wanted so desperately to bring Chicago an NBA Championship, he sacrifice his body and it cost him yet he never gave up just as he never gave up on the community. It’s obvious his mission was bigger than the hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for the Chi as he poured time and energy into healing the city from a different standpoint.
While Chicagoans may never get to see Derrick Rose win a championship for the Windy City, we will lose out in a far greater way. While some in Chicago look at Derrick Rose as a washed-up liability that only cares about himself due to the many games he missed because of his three knee surgeries, others in the city look at him as a saving grace in a city under siege.
From the day he stepped back on the revamped basketball court at Murray Park in 2011, where he honed his skills and said to the crowd about the new court,
“Hopefully it gives them hope. That’s the biggest thing. If they look at me, look at the court, they can just see, no matter if they play sports, even if they don’t play sports, no matter what they love to do, just make sure that they dedicate their selves to it, and they’re gonna have to sacrifice something to be successful.”
Sacrifice is something Derrick knows quite a bit about as he always sacrificed his time for the things and people he believes in.
Case in point, how many modern day athletes show up to a packed South Side church to mourn the death of a 14-year-old girl fatally shot in the back? Derrick Rose did that in 2014 for Endia Martin. He didn’t come with a camera crew; he just came to show his respect because Endia was killed in his city.
When 6-month-old girl, Jonylah Watkins, died after being shot five times in Chicago, who offered to pay for the funeral? You already know the answer and the only reason we know this is because Chicago Pastor, Corey Brooks let the media know about it. When asked to speak on it by the media, Rose declined to talk about it.
While he didn’t want to talk about that with the media, he used his Adidas shoe launch to talk about Chicago violence in general to the point he broke down in tears as he reflected on his personal success.
“It’s truly a blessing, man. With all of this stuff that’s going on in this city, a kid from Englewood got something positive going on. That makes me feel so good, man. This shoe is great, all this is great. But this, I can’t explain this…I can’t. I went through so much. To have like true fans, that means a lot to me. And I know it means a lot to my family, because we ain’t supposed to be here …at all. But God made a way. This is truly unreal.”
Affectionately known as Pooh by those close to him, Rose always seems to do some unreal things on and off the court.
When AAU coach Drake Adams died, his cousin had this to say about Derrick, “Our family is grieving. Our family is mourning. Derrick Rose came to the funeral for my cousin Drake… He prayed with us. He bowed his heads with us. He hugged me. He hugged us. He’s such a great individual. I never thought I would become a bigger Derrick Rose fan than what I was before today.. But that has changed. He will FOREVER have my support because he had our back today. So much love. Thank you.”
I could go on and on about the things Derrick Rose has done from Chicago and I will continue just a bit more. Let’s not forget who paid for slain Chicago rapper, Lil Jo Jo’s funeral. Jo Jo was of victim of gun violence and once again Rose stepped up to the plate to assist his family.
It’s not always about helping when times are bad, Rose also donated $1-million to After School Matters, a Chicago-based non-profit organization devoted to providing innovative out-of-school programs for teenagers. The teen population that After School Matters serves is almost entirely minority and living at or below the poverty level. After his donation, he said,
“To have a strong community of people who believe in your potential can make all the difference in the world. So many people have invested in me and I want to do the same for Chicago’s teens.”
There are countless other examples of Rose’s generosity and commitment to the community but I believe you get the point. Whether it’s showing up to Father Michael Pfleger Peace League Basketball Tournament every year or just supporting Joakim Noah’s “Rock Your Drop” campaign, D. Rose has always supported the city of Chicago. He even invested in the Chicago pizza franchise, Giordano’s because it is a hometown classic that he personally enjoys.
As much as Rose is just a kid from Chicago, he definitely lends his voice or image to bigger causes. He was literally the first NBA player to wear the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt in a public forum as he wore it on TV during warm-ups in 2014 before the Bulls loss a game to the Golden State Warriors. Other players like LeBron James were even inspired by his bold move and followed suit but rocking the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt a few days later.
When asked about it, Rose stated, “I had the shirt made, my best friend Randall brought it to the game, and I decided to wear it. It wasn’t any one [person’s] idea, I just thought I wanted to support something that happened. That’s what made me wear the shirt.”
“I grew up and I saw it every day,” Rose said. “Not killing or anything like that, but I saw the violence every day. Just seeing what can happen. If anything, I’m just trying to change the kids’ minds across the nation and it starts here.”
“I’m a parent now,” Rose said. “I had a kid two years ago. It probably would have been different [before his son was born]. I probably wouldn’t have worn the shirt. But now that I’m a dad, it’s just changed my outlook on life, period.”
Ironically Derrick Rose was wearing the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt in support of Eric Garner, who was killed by the NYPD after being placed in a choke hold. Now that Derrick is headed to New York to play for the Knicks, I’m sure he will be a welcomed addition to the team and to the community. New York is not only receiving a good player, they are also receiving a good samaritan.
I definitely want to point out that just because Rose has moved from Madison Ave. to Pennsylvania Plaza doesn’t mean he can’t still support the city of Chicago they way he always has but it just won’t be the same. The city that birthed and raised him will no longer feel his presence they way it once did. Our Rose from the concrete has been replanted and all we can do is celebrate its tenacity from a far. That is our loss.