The stage was being set perfectly for the drama to unfold, the likes of which we only see in Hollywood. A hometown kid blossoming into arguably the league’s best point guard - in the shadow of the league’s greatest player ever. He had put the weight of expectations, the franchise, and the entire city of Chicago on his back and was touting them towards the NBA finals for the first time since the aforementioned Jordan hit the most memorable shot in NBA history, securing the franchise’s 6th championship. It all felt right. Fitting. The year was now 2012, 16 years after the '96 Finals. The Chicago Bulls, like their leader, seemed to be an unstoppable force of destiny in the Eastern Conference. That was until the clock struck midnight on that Cinderella story and we all gasped as Derrick Rose clutched his knee with 1:19 left in game one of a home playoff match against the Philadelphia 76ers. It stands as one of the most haunting calls in sports: “holding onto his knee, holding onto his knee and down…” On that day Derrick Rose’s fairytale career took a somber turn. From that moment Rose lost his cloak of invincibility and for years to follow the Most Valuable Player dealt with injury after injury, personal battle after personal battle - which left many wondering if his career would soon end unceremoniously. But it is was his resilience that would define him, not his trials.  

Former teammate Joakim Noah said on the Pardon My Take podcast that if D-Rose didn't get hurt, the Bulls "would be holding that trophy up. In my mind, still to this day, there's no question."Noah references the early 2000s when he and Rose, along with a scrappy cast of Bulls, were the biggest threat to the NBA. Rose did return following the gruesome knee injury, but after multiple knee surgeries and a fraught relationship with the media, Chicago traded Rose in 2016. He would later be traded again by Cleveland and then cut by Utah. Many felt that was the last chapter of a career that once seemed destined for greatness. To further dissolve his reputation, Rose dealt with a civil suit that alleged rape beginning in 2016. There were, however, no criminal charges filed and he was found “not liable” in that case. In the midst of these tribulations, he publicly wondered if he should step away from the game for good. Rose took leaves of absence from both the Cavaliers and Knicks for personal reasons on several occasions. Pundits and writers across the league were confounded by his waffling. Oh, how I’m sure that day in 2012 haunted him. How he wished he could go back to that moment and be the person he was before the injury. But after some soul searching, Rose recommitted himself to the game. He also committed himself to grow as a man. Rose told ESPN when talking about his journey to becoming who he is today: “I just know, [in] Chi my vibrations were low - when your vibrations are low, you hear everything, you seek everything, and me seeking or hearing everything. That was just me being attracted to how I was feeling at the time, and that’s negative, so when I changed my vibrations and matured as a person and as a man, that’s when I started to grow and develop who I was as a person and individual and change my character.”

The former Memphis guard re-emerged with a newfound sense of self and a rejuvenated passion for the game. He embraced a role coming off the bench for Minnesota and that’s when things began to turn back in his favor. During his time with the club, he starting looking more and more like the Rose we fell in love with. In his finest moment in the last five years, Rose scored 50-points with the Wolves in an incredibly emotional game. 

Fast forward to 2019-2020, Derrick Rose has been one of, if not the best story of the 2020 NBA season. Producing like a fringe all-star and occasionally delivering some of the magic that once made him a marquee superstar for one of the league’s most beloved franchises. Rose’s per-36 minute production ranks on par with his MVP season of 2010-11. He is averaging 18.5 points on 49.8 percent shooting and 5.8 assists this season. Head Coach Dwayne Casey says Rose’s play is reminiscent of his MVP season, telling the Detroit News“He just shows his talent. Talent wins in the NBA and he’s one of our most talented players. We had (Rose) off the bench just to control his minutes and that’s on me and it’s on us (coaches). He’s been great; he’s been like the Derrick Rose of his MVP years.”

His fractured relationship with the city has healed since the Bulls parted ways with him. Just as Rose’s body and mind have healed from 2012. In a few returns to the United Center, where he first injured his knee, Rose had chants of M-V-P echoing through the famous building. Showered with love from his hometown fans. Rose will forever be tied to his hometown. The three-time all-star routinely gives back to the community and his presence can be felt. During all-star weekend he was there speaking on a panel about mental health. Which is important because his comeback has been just as much mental as it as physical. He could also be found signing his newly released book titled I’ll Show You. A return to the Chi wouldn’t be entirely out of the realm of possibility and after the last chapter of his hometown story looked written in 2012, what a final act that would be.