Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the Bulls/Heat thriller in Chicago thanks to a really good friend and frat brother of mine. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I jumped at the chance. But as much as I wanted to see LeBron play, witnessing the human pinball that is Derrick Rose was equally as anticipated. I’ve been following the guy since his University of Memphis days (all UofM had to do was make a damn free throw against Kansas) and watching him transform from an athletic freak into one of the best players in the league has been more than a treat.
Speaking of that transformation, Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins crafted an exceptional feature that documents his “Jordanesque killer instinct.” One of the more intriguing parts of the article, however, deals with the “beef” between Rose and LeBron James. In an extraordinary twist, the actual text message the point guard sent to last summer’s marquee free agent was revealed.
Delegations from six teams went to Cleveland in the first week of July to pitch LeBron James. The Bulls had the last meeting and, by most accounts, the longest. The New York Times had already published a story quoting an executive to the effect that James was headed to Chicago. “I think it’s a done deal,” the executive said. The Bulls had the point guard and the center, not to mention salary-cap space to add two max contracts.
Rose assumed a curious role in the proceedings. While other stars acted like college boosters courting the ultimate blue-chipper, Rose’s recruiting effort consisted of one text message, sent mainly for damage control. Rose remembers texting James, I’m just hitting you up to kill all the rumors that I don’t want to play with you. I’d like to play with you. I just want to win.
The message was vintage Rose, honest and understated, while his peers were over the top. James expressed his appreciation in a text, but on July 8 he joined Dwyane Wade and Bosh in Miami. The Heat’s new threesome was portrayed as the product of the AAU culture, with its stacked rosters and superteams, but Rose came from the same system and took a vastly different lesson from the experience. “He always told me he didn’t want to be on one of those stacked teams,” says Reggie, who coached his younger brother’s AAU club, the Mean Streets Express. “He wanted to be with an underdog.”
Rose recognized that he would be affected by James’s decision, but he was ambivalent about it, according to several associates. He loved the idea of playing alongside James and of the wins that would inevitably follow. But he also loved the team he had, with Deng at small forward, and he was not about to lobby strenuously for an upgrade. “That showed you what kind of guy he is,” Noah says. “If you want to come here and be part of this, that’s cool. If not, we’re going to try to kick your ass.”
Read the rest at Sports Illustrated