Youth is served in the NBA, but rarely is it served up in the form of a 22-year-old MVP. Actually make that never. In 2010-11, Derrick Rose set a new standard for precociousness, and then took the Chicago Bulls to within striking distance of the NBA Finals. In a league of big weapons, Derrick is like a little stealth bomber. He picks his target, plans his attack and strikes with astonishing speed and power. The “air apparent” in the Windy City, Derrick has reinvigorated the Bulls and put a charge into Chicago basketball. This is his story…

GROWING UP

Derrick Martell Rose was born on October 4, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois. (Click here for a complete listing of today's sports birthdays.) He was the youngest of four boys. Older siblings Dwayne, Reggie and Allan were all huge Bulls fans and talented players. Derrick followed their lead.

The Rose boys challenged their youngest brother on the court. They made him practice dribbling, passing and shooting with both hands. Derrick had another great role model in his early hero, Michael Jordan. 

As Derrick’s hoops aptitude became obvious and his path to the pros more likely, his mother Rose instructed her boys to protect and nurture their brother. Reggie became the coach of Derrick’s AAU team, the Mean Street Express. In addition to Derrick, the Express had another future NBA player in Eric Gordon.

When Derrick was ready for high school, he enrolled at Simeon Career Academy, a South Side vocational school with a good basketball program. He probably had the skills to play on the varsity, but coach Bob Hambric had a policy against it, so Derrick spent the 2003–04 season playing JV. He led the team to the city championship. Toward the end of the year, Coach Hambric (who was in his final year) offered Derrick a spot on the varsity but he declined—not wanting to steal the thunder from the upper classmen.

Derrick joined the varsity the following season under new coach Robert Smith. He scored 22 points in his first game for the Wolverines before a sold-out gym that included more than a dozen major college scouts. Derrick averaged just under 20 points as a sophomore, along with 8.3 assists and 2.4 steals. Simeon went 30–5 and made it to the state regionals.

In 2005–06, the Wolverines won the city’s public school championship. The final was played in the United Center. Derrick scored 25 and brought the crowd to its feet with several dunks. In the state tournament, Simeon defeated Richwoods High in overtime to win the championship. Derrick stole the ball and hit the winning jumper with less than five seconds on the clock.

The pair of titles put Derrick and his teammates in the spotlight in 2006–07. They were invited to play Rice High School in Madison Square Garden, where they lost 53–51. The game featured a much anticpated matchup between Derrick and Kemba Walker.

Derrick also went head-to-head with Brandon Jennings in a game against Oak Hill Academy. Derrick scored 28 in the contest, which was televised by ESPN. The Wolverines won 78–75.

Back in Illinois, Simeon defended its city and state titles, becoming the first Chicago high school to win back-to-back state championships. The team ended the year with a 33–2 record and was ranked among the top prep squads in the nation. Derrick led the Wolverines with 25.2 points and 9.1 assists per game. He also averaged 8.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals.

ON THE RISE

College recruiters had been hounding Derrick for years. His brothers did their best to filter the offers and help him narrow his choices. Many believed that Illinois had the inside track. Others suspected that Indiana might land him. In the end, the Rose family decided the best bet was Mamphis, where John Calipari was the coach and former NBA star Rod Strickland was an assistant. To remove any drama from his senior year, Derrick committed to the Tigers before his final varsity season started. 

At Memphis, Derrick teamed with shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. The junior was a consistent 20-point scorer who was ticketed for the NBA. They worked their magic flawlessly for more than three months.

The Tigers started the season 26–0, which gave the team its first #1 ranking since the 1980s. They finished 33–1, as Douglas-Roberts was named a First-Team All-American and Derrick garnered Third-Team honors for his solid freshman performance. He averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game—and was in the running for both the Wooden and Cousy Awards.


 

 

 


Eric Gordon, 2008 SLAM

     
 

During the NCAA Tournament, Derrick ramped up his game, particularly on the defensive end. The Tigers were given the top seed in the South Region, but they were still slight underdogs against Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and Texas in the Elite 8. Memphis trashed both opponents. Against the Spartans, Derrick led the Tigers to a rousing 30-point halftime lead and finished with a game-high 27 points. Against Texas, Derrick distributed the ball brilliantly and dogged D.J. Augustin for 40 minutes, limiting him to just 16 points. He was named the Region’s Most Outstanding Player following the Tigers’ 85–67 win.

Back in the Final Four for the first time since 1985, Memphis celebrated by beating UCLA to earn a spot in the national championship game. Derrick and Douglas-Roberts seized control of the contest, combining for 53 points. Derrick was good for 25 and once again demonstrated his defensive prowess, this time against the Bruins’ lightning-quick Darren Collison.

Against Kansas in the title game, the Tigers had a chance to nail down a win in regulation. In fact, they led by nine points with under three minutes left. Derrick had another superb game, but he missed key free throws down the stretch, which allowed the Jayhawks to force overtime. Shooting from the charity stripe was the team’s one Achilles heel all season, and this time it came back to haunt the Tigers. Up by three with a few seconds left, Memphis didn’t foul, and Mario Chalmers nailed the game-tying 3-pointer. In overtime, Kansas scored the first six points and held on to win 75–68. Derrick finished with 17 points, dished out a game-high eight assists and was named to the All-Final Four Team.  

After his amazing tournament run, Derrick declared that he intended to leave Memphis for the NBA draft. Around this time, allegations surfaced that he and two of his Simeon teammates had irregularities in their grades and SAT scores. Memphis had been aware of these rumors and hiredfour investigators to question Derrick. They could find no evidence of wrongdoing, and the school cleared him to play.

Unfortunately, NCAA detectives were unconvinced. Ultimately, they concluded that Derrick had at least one grade, a D, changed for no reason, and that someone else may have taken the SAT test for him. In addition, his brother Reggie had traveled with the Memphis squad on the taxpayers’ dime, which was a clear violation. The Tigers’ runner-up status in the 2008 championship was later vacated. 

There was little drama to the draft. The Bulls owned the first pick, and everyone knew they were going for the hometown kid. Derrick joined a team loaded with young talent, including Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. He opened the season strong, and then went through a mid-season lull. But he finished the way he started, winning Rookie of the Month for the third time that March.


Derrick Rose, 2008 SLAM
     
 

Trade-deadline additions of veteran Brad Miller and high-scoring John Salmons helped the Bulls snag the seven seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Derrick played in all but one game, averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 assists. He became the first Bull since Elton Brand to win NBA Rookie of the Year.

In the opening round of the playoffs, Chicago faced Bston and its Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Derrick was the headliner in the opening game, torching the Celtics for 36 points. In doing so he tied a record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most points by a rookie in his playoff debut. Derrick added 11 assists for good measure. The Bulls took the contest 105–103 in overtime on Boston’s home floor.

The series provided one thrilling moment after another, as the precocious Bulls pushed the Celtics to seven games. In the end, Chicago could not overcome so much Hall of Fame talent. Derrick averaged just under 20 points for the series, and at times he seemed unstoppable. What he could not accomplish with ability he seemed to do with sheer determination.

In 2009–10, Derrick was picked for his first All-Star Game. It was another milestone for the Chicago native—the last Bull to appear in the contest had been Jordan, in 1998.

Despite Derrick’s efforts, the Bulls were still finding themselves, losing as often as they won. Still, they managed to squeak into the playoffs. Derrick’s second season included six games in which he reached double-figures in assists and seven 30-point mihgts. He had his finest performance in the second-to-last game of the year, with the Bulls’ record at a precarious 39–41. Derrick scored 39, added seven assists and rejected three shots in a victory over the Celtics.  

This time in the playoffs, the Bulls met LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago had no answer for the King, although Derrick enjoyed a fine series. He scored between better than 20 points in each of the five games and dished out 36 assists.

As the 2010–11 season began, many experts tabbed 22-year-old Derrick as an MVP candidate. It wasn’t much of a stretch based on his early performance. He was moving at a new speed that made defenders look as if they were playing a different game. Time and again, Derrick would slash into a forest of big men only to emerge at the rim for a dunk, scoop or bank shot. He was absolutely fearless.


Derrick Rose, 2008 Topps Treasury
     
 

A concsistent 20-point scorer, Derrick hit for 42 twice—in a home win over the Sacramento Kings and a road loss to the Indiana Pacers. The extra attention he was drawing created great passing opportunities, and he regularly reached double-figures in assists—including 17 against the Bucks in Milwaukee.

In February, Derrick started his first All-Star Game, scoring 11 in a loss to the Western Conference. He finished the regular season averaging an even 25 points and 7.7 assists per game. He ranked in the Top 10 in several categories, including minutes played, field goals, 3-pointers, free throws, assists and points.

The Bulls headed into the playoffs as the East’s top seed with a 62–20 record—along with great confidence and experience. Carlos Boozer, signed as a free agent, teamed with Noah to give Chicago a solid presence in the paint. Veteran Kyle Korver supported the forward line off the bench, while Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer and TJ Watson filled the guard slot beside Derrick.

This time the Bulls moved through the first round with ease. They defeated the Pacers in five games, with Derrick establishing a new postseason high in the series opener with 39 points. The Atlanta Hawks put up a better fight, taking the opener in Chicago and tying the series 2–2 a week later. In the final two games, Derrick had 42 points and 22 assists. The Bulls won both by double-figure margins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Once again, a familar foe stood in their way. Only this time James had Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as running mates. The Miami Heat were expected to overwhelm the Bulls, but Chicago exposed a chink in the armor by winning Game 1. From there, however, Miami was too much, sweeping the remaining four games in impressive fashion. Derrick topped 20 points in each contest, but he seemed to be running on fumes at times. In Game 4, he had seven turnovers.

After the season, Derrick was named to the All-NBA First Team along with James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard. When the Most Valuable Player votes were tallied, Derrick was the big winner. finishing ahead of Howard for the Podoloff Trophy. At 22, he became the NBA’s youngest MVP.

With a core of talented young players, the Bulls will look to supplant the Heat as Eastern Conference champions. That effort begins—and most likely ends—with the skill and leadership of their reigning superstar. Chicago fans are fine with that. They’ve been down this road before, and the outcome was a good one. Derrick couldn’t be more focused on excited for the opportunity.

DERRICK THE PLAYER


Derrick Rose, 2010 KICKS
     
 

In three NBA seasons, Derrick has developed a full arsenal of offensive weapons. He attacks the rim with gravity-defying ease, but he can also stop-and-pop mid-range jumpers and hit 3-pointers. His leaping ability makes him equally effective on either end of an alley-oop. The more pressure on Derrick to score, the better he is at creating and making shots. On many of his drives, he leaves defenders scratching their heads.

As a playmaker, Derrick understands as well as any young player that his job is to create opportunities for teammates. There is no standing around and watching him, as there was when Jordan was a young star with the Bulls. If you get open, you will touch the basketball if Derrick is on the point.

Defensively, Derrick has good hands and anticipation. He is also an effective shot-blocker when the opportunity arises. At 22, he was just a shade behind the top defensive guards in the league—Kobe, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo—and he should be a regular on the All-Defensive team in the coming years.

Derrick loves having the ball in his hands with the game on the line. He’s a natural leader who doesn’t have to score to be effective on the floor. Given his pedigree, it seems only a matter of time before Derrick celebrates an NBA championship.


Derrick Rose, 2008 Topps Chrome
     

 

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