By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) He has money (like $300 million of it). He has youth (his birth certificate reads “1988”). He has an MVP trophy (with surely more to come). And he has his Midwestern metropolis of a hometown resting in the palm of his hand (like a Spalding basketball).
Yes, Derrick Rose appears to have it all.
And then some.
But if that’s really true, then why does the guy who’s making everyone in Chicago “See Red” sound so darn blue?
“It gets on my nerves that I just can’t go out,” Rose lamented recently to GQ writer Will Leitch while the two sat inside the Bulls superstar’s 84th floor Trump Tower condo, high above the streets of downtown Chicago.
“It’s just boundaries now,” Rose continued. “People are like, ‘You can’t go here, you can’t go there, you got to let that person know where you’re going.’ It’s just weird. I’m never alone. Ever.”
Considering everything that he has, there are plenty of reasons for people to be envious of Derrick Rose. But while reading the cover story this week in GQ, which perhaps provides better insight into the psyche of the Bulls’ tight-lipped superstar than any story before, I couldn’t help but think that Rose instead sounded envious of everyone else. In fact, he struck me as a Rapunzel in gym shorts, sitting there lonely up in a tower, just wishing he could actually let his hair down.
And be rescued.
During his interview with Rose, Leitch pondered similar thoughts, writing, “As the star of a top team in a league that markets individuals more than any other sport in America (a league that has long had a reputation of harboring the hardest-partying athletes in America), Rose bristles at the thought of going out.
“In one way, this is refreshing. He just wants to do his own thing. But the more I think about it – the more I hear Rose talk about how little he enjoys interacting with strangers, how desperately he misses being able to walk around unnoticed, how mournful he gets when the topic of ‘attention’ is breached, how obviously uncomfortable he is even in basic social situations outside his immediate circle – it strikes me as unbearably sad.”
And if Derrick Rose seems “unbearably sad” today, then the question has to be, is there any way that he can be truly happy spending the rest of his career here in Chicago?
That’s a sobering thought for Bulls fans who have pretty much blocked off the next 15 years expecting to watch Derrick Rose dominate the NBA while wearing red and black.
For his part, Rose – who in December signed a five-year contract extension with the Bulls – has said before that he’s not planning to leave his hometown. In fact, two summers ago when LeBron James was dealing with the radioactive fallout from his “Decision” to bolt Cleveland for Miami, Rose vowed, “I’m never [leaving Chicago],” before punctuating the statement a few seconds later by adding, “Never.”
Statements don’t get much stronger than that. However, when you read in GQ that Rose now says about the Windy City, “Sometimes it’s too much,” you can’t help but wonder if he’s feeling differently today. And you can’t help but worry that these past two years of increased stardom – and intensified scrutiny – in his fishbowl of a hometown have worn Rose thin.
On that topic, Rose went on to explain carefully – but quite accurately – to GQ how, “Chicago isn’t used to stardom. Back when Michael was here, everyone was used to actors and singers and people being at the games. But there’s been a drought since then, and even celebrities, they’ll stop here to film a movie and then pop right back out. They don’t know how to act toward celebrity.”
Back in 2001, when the Bulls drafted South Holland native Eddy Curry in the first round of the NBA Draft many speculated that the pressure of playing near his hometown would eventually sink the 7-footer.
And while it was hardly the only one, that factor very well may have played a role in Curry’s disappointing career. Without a doubt, the expectations that Clevelanders heaped on the shoulders of LeBron, a product of nearby Akron, was one of the reasons why the star took his talents to South Beach.
Some professional athletes, such as New York’s Lou Gehrig and Cincinnati’s Pete Rose, have found great success while playing ball in their native cities. Others, such as Minnesota’s Joe Mauer and Cincy’s Ken Griffey Jr., have instead experienced a mixed bag.
Locally, Chicago’s favorite sons Chris Chelios and Dick Butkus certainly seemed to enjoy playing in the Windy City and fared exceptionally well, but neither of them ever lived under the same kind of scrutiny and celebrity that Rose now finds himself enveloped in.
In the GQ story, Rose made it clear that he understands the foolish mistakes – and “Decisions” – that LeBron made when he left the Cavaliers, turning him from beloved to Public Enemy No. 1.
“It happened overnight with him, and it was sad to see somebody go through that,” Rose said. “It would hurt anyone to see your hometown turn on you like that.”
When asked whether he worries that he might get “Lebron’d” himself someday, Rose responded: “I won’t ever put myself in a bad position so that people can say bad things about me.”
But it’s notable that throughout the lengthy GQ piece Rose didn’t repeat his promise from two years ago when he said he’d never leave Chicago. Rather, he said, “This life doesn’t fit my personality.”
The big question is, does this city?
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.