Inside Derrick Rose’s Polarizing Relationship With Chicago Media and Fans

“There’s a sense of two Chicagos — in a basketball sense, in a political sense, in a real life sense.”

That’s what Yahoo! Sports Senior NBA Writer Vincent Goodwill told Stadium during the filming of “Pooh: The Derrick Rose Story,” a documentary about the former NBA MVP featured on Stadium on Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

“It’s the most polarizing, hard-to-wrap-your-arms-around sports story that I’ve ever lived through in the city of Chicago,” Marc Silverman of ESPN 1000 recalled.

Rose was a home-grown star. Before being drafted first overall by the Bulls and bringing an MVP to Chicago, Derrick grew up in Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side of the Windy City.

It was a troublesome area; drugs and violence permeated the streets of Englewood, and Rose’s family made certain his attention was focused on something that would keep him away from the trouble.

“You’re not going to do this,” Derrick’s brother Reggie remembered. “You’re going to go to school. You’re going to play some type of sports because we just all figured that sports at that time was going to be his only way out.”

That sport was basketball, and Rose engrossed himself in it during his childhood, spending most of his time at one park in particular.

Murray Park, infamously referred to as “Murder Park” due to the incidents of violence that occurred over the years at the park, was where Rose honed his basketball skills and stayed out of trouble. As he rose to prominence during high school at Simeon Career Academy just south of Englewood, the country started to take notice.

Thus began the mercurial relationship between Chicago media and Derrick Rose – an association that played out like the seasons in Chicago, alternating between hotter-than-hot and colder-than-cold at the drop of a hat.

“Derrick Rose is maybe the best player in America,” Chicago media personality David Kaplan observed while doing color commentary for the IHSA when Derrick was in high school. “You look back 35 years and you could tell me I could have two guards in the history of this state, I’d take Isiah Thomas, I’d take Derrick Rose.”

Although Rose wanted to jump directly to the NBA from high school due to his family’s financial situation, the league rules didn’t allow it. He would have to spend at least one year away from the NBA.

Derrick chose to attend the University of Memphis and play for John Calipari. He confided in his friends that he felt out of place at Memphis, playing for a team that didn’t represent his hometown for the first time.

But you couldn’t tell by watching him. Rose led the Tigers to the national title game in 2008, tallying 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. He was expected to be one of the top picks in the upcoming NBA Draft.

“I wasn’t even watching the draft lottery that year because the Bulls had such an infinitesimal chance of landing the No. 1 pick,” K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune recounted.

That’s because Chicago had gone 33-49 the previous season, snapping a three-year playoff stretch.  The Bulls had a 1.7% chance at landing the top pick, making the possibility of Rose playing for his hometown team nearly impossible. However, the basketball gods smiled upon Chicago at the draft lottery and gave the Bulls the winning combination and the first overall pick.

“What was crazy about it is that we weren’t expecting it and second was that we thought they were going to pick Michael Beasley,” Reggie Rose revealed.

Kaplan thought there was no reason for debate.

“A day after they win that lottery, I call [then-Bulls GM and current Executive VP of Basketball Operations] John Paxson and I said, ‘You have no decision. Derrick Rose is a slam dunk No. 1 guy, it’s not even close.’ And I remember getting into a debate with Stacey King. I said, ‘Stacey, this is Secretariat at The Belmont — you take Derrick Rose and it’s not even close,'” Kaplan shared.

“My pick was Beasley at the time, and boy, I’m glad I’m not the GM. I would’ve been fired,” said King.

With the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Bulls selected Rose over Beasley, giving him the chance to lift an organization that had struggled to find playoff success since Michael Jordan’s retirement.

“My knees actually got so weak I couldn’t move,” said Brenda Rose, Derrick’s mother. “That was the proudest thing to me, is when he went up on stage as the No. 1 pick for the Chicago Bulls, his hometown. And all I could say was, ‘My baby’s coming home.'”

“There’s not a lot of people that make it to the league, period,” Chicago native Chance the Rapper said. “You make it to the league and you get to play for the crib? I don’t know, that’s the dream.”

Rose agreed.

“This is a dream come true, to be a Chicago Bull,” he announced at his introductory press conference.

Rose would lead the Bulls to the playoffs in his first two seasons, but Chicago was eliminated in the first round both times. And even though Rose’s numbers had improved over his first two years, he set his individual goals higher entering the 2010-11 campaign.

“Why can’t I be the MVP of the league? Why can’t I be the best player in the league?” Rose pondered at the beginning of the year.

“He saw the looks of surprise on a lot of media members’ faces and just the way that comment was received, and he repeated it and he started believing it,” K.C. Johnson remembered.

“That’s exactly how Chicago people think. When Derrick Rose made that statement, Chicago as a whole rallied around him. They loved it, fans ate that up,” added Laurence Holmes of 670 The Score.

“We always say about our athletes, if you’re gonna talk the talk, walk the walk. And in 2010-2011, Derrick Rose walked the walk,” Marc Silverman said.

Rose averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game en route to becoming the youngest MVP in league history.

“He brought us back to prominence in the league,” said Paxson. “He made himself into that MVP.”

“This right here is for the city of Chicago more than anything,” Rose said while accepting the award on the United Center court.

The Bulls went 62-20 that season and made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Miami Heat. The foundation appeared to be set for a long window of contention.

“2011-2012 was the seventh banner. It was going to go to the rafters,” Silverman said.

In a lockout shortened 2011-12 season, the Bulls went 50-16 to capture the top seed in the Eastern Conference for a second consecutive season. They would face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs with their sights set on a title.

Game 1 was in Chicago at the United Center. With Chicago up 16 points in the fourth quarter with 7:53 left, Rose entered the game for C.J. Watson. In a decision heavily scrutinized at the time, Rose was still on the court with the Bulls up 99-87 with 1:20 left on the clock.

The entire trajectory of Derrick Rose’s career changed on one drive to the basket.

“I remember coming down. I think I made a jump hop to like a pass. I remember passing the ball and feeling my ACL tear a little bit, it didn’t tear all the way,” Rose said. “It tore a little bit. So when I went down on the floor, right when I laid down and put my hands over my head, I felt it tear totally.”

“When he’s writhing in pain on the floor, your heart was in your throat,” remembered Holmes.

“All of Chicago felt that.”

The Bulls went on to win Game 1 103-91, but Rose’s injury was a crushing blow to the team’s title chances.

“It was such a downer that we didn’t even know how to process it,” Silverman said.

Not only did Chicago go on to lose the series 4-2, but the future of its franchise player was now cloudy. Naturally, there were immediately questions about whether Rose would return the following year.

The Bulls and Rose’s camp didn’t put a timeline on the point guard’s return, leading to increased scrutiny surrounding Derrick’s rehab.

“They should have announced he was out for the season,” Kaplan said.

Rose returned to practice in January 2013. By early March, reports surfaced that he had been cleared to play by team doctors, but wasn’t yet ready: “His long-awaited return to the lineup won’t occur until he can confidently dunk off his left foot, Rose has told the team,” ESPN reported.

“He’s about to be Michael Jordan. Why would you risk sending this guy out there? Who’s even thinking about that?” NBA.com’s Sam Smith asked.

The Bulls expected Rose to return in mid-March – perhaps in time for their March 15 matchup against the Warriors. On March 13, Chicago fell to Sacramento 121-79, their largest margin of defeat the entire season. The Bulls were 35-29. Fans were clamoring for their hometown star to return.

Rose didn’t return during the regular season. The Bulls continued to the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the East. But still, Rose wasn’t ready to play. They beat the Nets in the first round of the playoffs in a series that went seven games. The calendar turned to May. Still, no Rose.

The Chicago media sounded off against Derrick.

“I have never, ever seen a purported NBA star — guy makes $95 million a year in salary alone — not want to play,” said one radio host.

“I’m pissed off, and Bulls fans should be pissed off too,” said another.

“That ’12-13 season was just a disaster on so many levels,” Johnson said. “adidas filmed an inspirational promotional campaign called ‘The Return’ and then he didn’t return.”

“He’s out there trying to rehab his knee. Maybe he’s not even thinking about the public relations war that is going on about his rehab, but every day past the point where the Bulls said Derrick should be back and he wasn’t back, Derrick was losing credibility with fans,” recalled Holmes.

“It was [a] Chicago sports civil war,” Silverman said.

“You almost felt like the segregation of Chicago — almost the history of segregation in Chicago — met at Derrick Rose,” Vincent Goodwill said. “Because so many people in Chicago — so many black people in Chicago — felt like Derrick Rose was being unfairly mistreated by a largely white media.

“And fans — the season ticket holders of Chicago — clearly are a different demographic. And they looked at the dollar signs, and they looked at, ‘Why aren’t you playing?’ And they’re looking at the media reports. ‘The doctors said you were cleared to play, why aren’t you playing?’ And then he’s out there, and he’s not this same high-flying 19-year-old that he once was.

“It goes back to the expectations that were placed on Derrick from the moment that he got there,” Goodwill continued, “relative to the sheer joy that many Chicagoans from the south side from Englewood felt from the moment he was drafted. And they go back to that.

And a lot of other people were looking at the championships they could have won. They looked at the ‘what if’ factor. They looked at all these different things, from the injuries, to the money, to the confusing statements, to the public image. And you could see that it met. It was like throwing a Molotov cocktail in the city.”

Rose returned for the 2013-14 campaign with a chance to put the injury fiasco behind him. Bulls fans could move forward, the only reminder of the injury coming in the form bulky adidas knee braces. All Derrick had to do was return to MVP form.

10 games in, he suffered a meniscus tear and was ruled out for the season.

“This isn’t happening again,” Silverman thought.

The Bulls fanbase couldn’t believe it.

“It seems like the city turned on him,” said Holmes.

“That’s Chicago for you man. It’s the city of haters,” quipped Allan Rose, Derrick’s brother.

Rose continued to suffer knee injuries, limiting himself to just 51 games during the 2014-15 season when he finally returned.

Behind Noah and Most Improved Player Jimmy Butler, the Bulls compiled a 50-32 record and made the playoffs. In the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it felt like Rose was ready for his moment of redemption.

With the series tied 1-1 and the Bulls leading 96-93 in the waning seconds of Game 3, Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith buried a 3-pointer to tie the game. With three seconds left, Rose took an inbounds pass and dribbled around a screen before letting his shot go.

“Words at the time couldn’t describe that feeling. The thought process was, ‘Man, we overcame. You overcame, we overcame and it’s paid off. It shows.’ At that moment, we just thought it was nothing but great from there,” said Bryant Orange, Rose’s childhood friend.

“That was a crazy year and that was a really, really big shot,” Joakim Noah said. “I really felt like this was the chance for us to go to the Finals.”

It wasn’t. The Cavaliers would win the next three games, taking the series 4-2 and bouncing the Bulls from the playoffs.

The Bulls responded by letting Tom Thibodeau go despite a successful five-year run, then hired Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg to replace him.

In Hoiberg’s first year as head coach, Rose played in 66 games, but Chicago went 42-40 and missed the postseason for the first time in his career. Despite averaging 16.4 points and 4.7 assists per game, Rose’s tenure in Chicago seemed to be coming to an end.

“I’m good with being in Chicago. We’re trying to win there, get back on the right track, so that’s the only thing I can think about is just being in Chicago,” Rose said at the time during shooting for his documentary in Los Angeles. “But I do hear the rumors.”

He found out he was being traded to the New York Knicks minutes later.

Laurence Holmes remembers being on the air on 670 The Score after the trade. “I took a ton of phone calls that night,” he recalled. “And the majority of the phone calls were, ‘Good riddance!'”

After one season in New York, in which he started 64 games and averaged 18 points a game, Rose signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent on July 25, 2017.

He only played in 16 games with the Cavs before being traded to the Utah Jazz, who then released him.

That’s when he signed with the Timberwolves, reuniting with Thibodeau in Minnesota. Following a promising start with the T-Wolves, he re-signed with Minnesota during the 2018 free agency period, inking a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum contract.

Rose, whose 2018-19 season ended in March after undergoing elbow surgery, averaged 18.0 points and 4.3 assists per game in 51 contests this year, but most NBA fans remember two notable highlights from his campaign.

One was his 50-point performance against the Jazz on Oct. 31.

The second highlight came Dec. 26 in Chicago, where Rose earned the start and scored 24 points in a Minnesota win. At one point, he even drew “MVP” chants from the crowd while at the free throw line.

He had this to say after the game:

“He means something to this organization and this city,” said Paxson. “He always will.”

That relationship was on full display that night in the United Center.

“Chicago made me who I am. Being drafted by the Bulls was a dream come true. I carry Chicago with me everywhere I’ve gone. I always will,” Rose once said.

“I really hope that at some point, there is some sort of reconciliation between Derrick Rose and Bulls fans,” Holmes remarked.

Could that moment arrive as soon as this upcoming offseason?

Rose is due to become a free agent and the Bulls are looking to improve their point guard situation. How fitting would it be if the kid from Murray Park in Englewood returned to his hometown — just years after the fans that once adoringly cheered his name had celebrated his departure — and brought the Bulls back to relevance?

Maybe that’s just a pipe dream, but if you ask the coach who knows Rose best, the future is still bright for the 30-year-old guard.

“In every story, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end,” said Tom Thibodeau.

“The beginning was great. The middle was marred by injuries, and I think the end’s gonna be great.”

MORE: STADIUM FILMS PRESENTS “POOH: THE DERRICK ROSE STORY”