The image above feels like it’s photoshopped, but it’s not. It’s reality, but it’s bizarre. For years, we watched Derrick Rose and our beloved Bulls fight against LeBron James. Whether LeBron was with the Cavaliers or the Miami Heat, the goal remained the same for Rose’s Bulls: Overcome LeBron James. He was the roadblock in the Eastern Conference and he was the rival. Both of LeBron’s teams had history with Jordan’s Bulls, but it always felt like this rivalry was LeBron vs. the Bulls. He always got the better of us. Now, Derrick Rose plays with LeBron James in Cleveland and it’s difficult to process.
When the Bulls traded Derrick Rose last year, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken. Some fans were and they proclaimed that he was their guy and they would keep supporting him. Forgive me, but I’d rather eat a roach infested cake out of a dumpster than cheer for the New York Knicks in any fashion (except for the movie “Eddie”). Rose was gone, the Rose-era was dead, and the Bulls were moving on. Then allegations started to surface suggesting Derrick Rose was a rapist and Bulls fans were blown away. Fortunately, a jury found the claims of the woman against Derrick Rose were not credible and the controversy was over, but Bulls fans were asking, “How could this humble kid born and raised in Chicago be this way?” For residents of Chicago, it was similar to the shock the world faced when the allegations against Bill Cosby began to surface. “Cliff Huxtable?! The ideal TV dad?! This can’t be!” This was DERRICK ROSE. The guy everyone felt bad for because of the injuries, the guy the entire NBA fanbase cheered for because he was a special player. We thought we knew him. Personally, I became disgusted by him and refused to even so much as tweet about him at all. I didn’t watch him play except for the few games he played against the Bulls and I ignored the Knicks completely. This guy was Chicago’s hero and it wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to lead to championship parades at Grant Park, the coveted #1 hanging up alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and more banners being hung in the United Center celebrating our 7th and 8th championships. It never happened. Rose’s ACL exploded and NBA history changed forever. I wrote about it in detail here.
This past summer, Derrick Rose entered free agency and it seems like no offers came his way. He eventually signed for the veteran’s minimum, around $3 million, to play with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. It’s bizarre to see him in those colors. That #1 that so many of us have in our closets, that we wore to so many Bulls games, that we loved seeing on the court is now in wine and gold playing alongside LeBron James. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But Rose’s new jersey also came with a new Derrick Rose. Watching him on the court, you can tell that his personality has changed and possibly for the better. He doesn’t look burdened down by the expectation that he is the franchise and that he has a giant contract so he needs to produce. He looks relaxed, his hair is different (and still taking some getting used to), and he looks like he’s happy to be playing basketball again. I find myself reluctantly pulling for him to have a great season and not relinquish that starting role to Isaiah Thomas. You can see glimmers of the former MVP on the court. Last night against the Bulls, he drove to the rim, switched hands, and laid it in. It perfectly encapsulated everything that Derrick Rose was at his peak: Fast, amazing handles, and the ability to finish beautifully at the rim. It was vintage Derrick Rose.
I’ve forgiven him for the ACL tear, even though it wasn’t his fault. I’ve forgiven him for not returning late in the 2012-2013 season as fans were frantically checking Twitter day after day hoping to get a glimpse of our fallen MVP. I’ve forgiven him for not fully returning to MVP form – who could after that many injuries? I’ve forgiven him for not totally meshing with Jimmy Butler, even if that never really made sense. I’ve forgiven him for not bringing home a championship. None of these things were his fault, but for some reason I held it against him and pinned the blame on him.
I’ve finally forgiven Derrick Rose and now I can enjoy watching him play basketball again.
Brandon Pence is the author and founder of “The Bulls Outsider” and co-founder of “B2 Hoops.” Follow “The Bulls Outsider” on Twitter and Facebook.