As a Chicago Bulls fan from the post Michael Jordan era, I haven’t been exposed to a lot of positives. There was a promising season from Eddy Curry before he discovered the all-you-can-eat, baring first witness to the creative facial hair of Brad Miller and a whole lot of gloom apart from that. Luckily, all of that changed on June 28, 2008. I had watched Derrick Rose play that previous college season and seen what many see with John Wall from a physical standpoint but with one big difference. In Rose, I saw the competitive streak that I’ve only witnessed in Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant with my own eyes, something that Jordan had more of than anyone in the history of the game. I saw dedication and thirst to be great, and I saw the tools that were in front of him to actually achieve it. In essence, I saw a champion being presented to the world. To say I was thrilled would be putting it pretty lightly as he was almost the personification of a beacon of hope for Bulls fans to grab onto.
The first season didn’t disappoint as although his jump shot made you get the same feeling inside as with a Dwight Howard free throw, he willed his way to a great season by simply wanting it more than the next guy. With the mind of a champion comes the dedication to pursue it, and with Rose it was no different. Over the next three seasons, we saw him work tirelessly to plug every hole that existed within his game. Where he once struggled to create and keep his teammates involved, a more unselfish and wise player replaced him. Where once stood a player who would lose a game of horse to a novice now stood a player who demanded respect for his jump shot. Where once stood a boy afraid of being vocal now stood a man who wasn’t afraid of anything. We were witnessing the birth of a superstar.
Unfortunately, our collective breathe was taken on April 28, 2012. We felt every grimace and absorbed every sigh of Rose’s agony because as the savior of our franchise, he was a part of us. As we all know, the resulting ACL tear has kept Rose away from the basketball court up until the recent string of preseason games. Sadly, there is one thought that comes to me more than any other and one I believe is present in the minds of every Bulls fan. Will we ever see the Rose that gave us that hope of championship glory?
The game of basketball is much more complicated than having athletic tools alone, something that players like Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green and Stromile Swift can attest to. The body of a champion does not attain champion status unless it has the mind of one as well. With Rose, being witness to the return and just not see the same player mentally is the fear. We witnessed the return of Jordan around a decade ago and saw feats that human beings at that advanced age aren’t able to dream of. Yet, we could see that something was missing with Jordan on the floor. It was something that was more evident to the ones who grew up during the Bulls’ dynasties but something that even the casual fan could see. The Jordan we knew was no more and no string of successful games with a Washington Wizards jersey on his back could convince you otherwise.
When November rolls around, what happens if Rose no longer gives off that feeling that when the chips are on the line, the Bulls will have as good a shot as any to take the entire pot? What happens if a healthy Rose forever holds doubt about what he can do without hurting himself and robs himself of the fearlessness that defined his early career? Although I truly believe that we will witness the return of the player who brought hope, that shred of doubt will always be there. We are all prepared to see the player who will again cause the city of Chicago to parade in the streets, hold that shiny metal trophy in their arms and desperately hold onto party crasher Mark Madsen who tirelessly fights towards a stage to dance on. At the end of the day, the question isn’t whether we’re ready for that hope but simply are we ready if that feeling never returns?