Derrick Rose grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Rose was born and raised in Chicago, so he knows full well the degree of difficulty that comes with winning a championship for the Windy City and the massive shadow cast by Jordan’s legacy.
If you take away Jordan’s Bulls, the city of Chicago has celebrated only three championships in the four major professional leagues in half a century: the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 2005 Chicago White Sox, and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Three!
So, having said that, the pressure is mounting on the Rose-led Bulls to win a NBA title in the post-Jordan era. The Bulls own the best record in the East and are poised to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They have all the pieces in place to make a serious run at the franchise’s seventh NBA title, and first since 1998. They’re led by the 2011 NBA MVP in Rose, the 2011 coach of the year in Tom Thibodeau, and they have the best defense in the league.
To say that Rose, Thibodeau, and the 2012 Chicago Bulls have a ton of pressure on them to win a title is a vast understatement. Chicago is absolutely thirsting for another NBA championship, and the enormous weight of that pressure is wearing on Rose to the point where he is almost despising the fame, fortune, and notoriety that comes with being the face of one of the NBA’s storied franchises.
In a GQ article, Rose admitted to New York Times writer Will Leitch (the founder of Deadspin) that life as a NBA superstar is not for him. Rose told Leitch:
“Sometimes it’s too much. Chicago … 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. So I always have someone with me. I can have a hat on, glasses on, whatever. People still notice me. If I go outside without a hat on, I feel like I’m naked. This life doesn’t fit my personality.”
That last line caused a firestorm across the Web. Does it mean Rose is crumbling under the pressure? Does it mean he hates being in Chicago? Does it mean he is about to make a LeBron-like move and ditch his hometown team for another squad?
Here’s what Rose was revealing. Basically, he is admitting the whole NBA stardom thing is not for him and he is totally uncomfortable with it. It also reveals that he is bracing himself for what is about to happen in the next two months when the stakes will be through the roof when his Bulls meet the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Yes, the Bulls and Heat will meet in the conference finals.
Rose is basically telling the whole world that he is uncomfortable being under the heat of the spotlight, which doesn’t bode well for the Bulls because the heat is only going to get worse. Rose’s allergic reaction to fame may cause him to freeze in big moments. It may cause him to force shots, make bad decisions with the ball, or lose his cool when the game gets heated. Those are all strong possibilities based on his admission.
Pressure can break a man’s will and confidence. Not all great athletes can handle pressure, and it takes a special individual to rise above adversity. Rose just needs to embrace the moment. He needs to deal with the heat of the spotlight and deal with the reality that in order for him to deliver a championship to his beloved city he has to beat the Miami Heat.
The city of Chicago is dying for another Michael Jordan and, whether he likes it or not, Rose must now walk in MJ’s shoes and face The Heat.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.