Derrick Rose, Sneakers over Stats, and the Beauty of Empathy

I remember visiting my brother in Memphis during basketball season in 2008: Derrick Rose was […]

Matt Patrick / 11.27.13

I remember visiting my brother in Memphis during basketball season in 2008: Derrick Rose was the talk of the town. With a 6-foot-4 frame, Rose was slightly taller than most of the point guards he went up against and could jump higher and run faster. Rose came out Simeon High School in Chicago, a hotbed for freakishly athletic ball players–Rose was certainly no exception. After a phenomenal freshman year at Memphis, Rose was the first overall pick in the NBA draft the following year.

If you remember, in our NBA Season Preview of sorts, Derrick Rose’s return to the NBA–after sitting out last season in its entirety due to an ACL injury–was one of our top stories going into the season. The season started off rusty for Rose, but he still looked every bit as quick as he did two years ago when he won the MVP. Last week, Rose suffered yet another heart-wrenching injury and will be out for the rest of the season.


I feel for Rose, and I’m not alone. It seems as though his dreams are being crushed yet again before our eyes, and everyone is aching for him. Just think of the inflexible “Thou shalt’s” that a talent like Rose has sat under the majority of his life. Needless to say, the pressure is high for athletes like Derrick and from a very early age–just Google current college freshman phenoms Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker and you’ll see what I mean. The “one and done” types–meaning, players who play only one year of college ball only to enter the NBA draft the following year–are exceptional talents, to be sure. Sources say that Reebok and Nike are already talking endorsement deals for Wiggins and Parker. Out of all the highly anticipated draft picks in the last decade or so, D-Rose truly deserved the hype surrounding him. Some believe his MVP year was only a foretaste of what he was to accomplish. After all, he’s only 25 years old (!).

dr22The second thing that came to mind was the sadness that dominates stories/interviews concerning Rose’s injury. As merciless as the sports world can be–with all of its standards and scrutiny–it can also be, at times, a bit gracious. Think back to players of the past decade or so who have had career-ending/-altering injuries early in their careers. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway springs to mind. “Penny” was often thought of as the player to which Michael Jordan would eventually pass his torch. When Hardaway went down, the sports world grieved for him.

So yes, the sports world can be a tough place, especially when you’re Derrick Rose. But when young, talented players’ goals and dreams are interrupted by injuries, something else also happens. The demands come to a halt, and empathy follows.

You know what Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway is most known for in basketball circles nowadays? His shoes. Behind Nike Air Jordans, Hardaway’s famous “Penny’s” are the most popular retro basketball sneaker in the country. It’s funny, Hardaway has probably been treated more graciously after his injury than before. In fact, Hardaway is now regarded as a player who could have been one of the best point guards of all time, with an incredible shoe line, as opposed to just another player in the 90’s that couldn’t hold a candle to Michael Jordan. All this to say, career-altering/-ending injuries force sport fans to stop “stuffing the law in the trunk,” as Robert Capon put it–and feel some empathy. This is a good thing.