A poignant moment for a humble superstar; more news and notes
Last week, Derrick Rose broke down while recounting his path to NBA stardom
In this era of fame-obsessed superstars, Rose's humble nature is quite refreshing
NBAPA investigation continues; AEG sale fallout; more notes from around NBA
Long before my amazing father died in November 2009, one recurring complaint had caused his fandom to wane: that out-of-touch athletes were too self-consumed to care enough about the things that mattered most.
The golden era that he grew up in was gone, and the modern-day stars of the 1980s and early '90s were -- as he saw it -- more concerned with the money and fame than they were the games. So he pulled back from those San Francisco Bay Area teams that once captured his attention, his loyalties never to return.
It's a familiar refrain among today's consuming public, too, this idea that the pedestal on which players are put doesn't allow them to connect with the very people who help make their enormous paychecks possible. Which is why it's worth slowing down to highlight what Bulls point guard Derrick Rose did in Chicago last week.
At an event to launch his Adidas shoe and clothing line, the former MVP showed the kind of humanity and humility that even the most disenchanted of sports fans would have to find endearing. Rose, who isn't expected to return from his May 12 ACL surgery until late this season, broke down in tears after a video of his long rehabilitation process was shown to the attending crowd. Adidas vice president Lawrence Norman had handed Rose the floor during the presentation, and the words were supposed to keep flowing. Instead, Rose sat silent -- wiping his eyes, staring at the floor -- for nearly 30 seconds before sharing the root of all this unfiltered emotion.
The Chicago native spoke of his appreciation for his blessed life, for the support shown to him by so many on his path from the unforgiving streets of his neighborhood to global stardom. And as if that wasn't enough, Rose even took a moment to discuss his story in a context that went way beyond himself. A seven-day teacher strike plagued Chicago's public schools before ending this week, and Rose -- who shared for the first time that he will be a father soon -- discussed how it made him feel to see all those kids walking around town when they should be in school.
"My initial reaction was that this was one of the greatest displays of human emotion that I've seen, because it was real, it was authentic and that's who he really is," said B.J. Armstrong, Rose's agent and a former Bulls point guard. "It wasn't in the script. What he was able to express, and what you were able to see, everyone has had that moment of, 'I don't know how I got here.' Everyone can relate to that.
"I was like, 'Wow, that's pretty cool for the fans. That's pretty cool for people, because it's a reminder that people are human.' We get caught up in all these figures and saying, 'He's the greatest this or that,' but you know what? He's a kid who's just human.
"I'm sure we all have experienced it in the privacy of our own homes, in the privacy of places where millions of people don't get a chance to see it. I'm just very thankful that he shared that moment with us."
Rose, who was raised by his mother, Brenda, and three older brothers and attended the public Simeon Career Academy on the South Side, had to be thrilled to hear that hundreds of thousands of students returned to school on Wednesday.
"He knows the problems in Chicago, through and through," Armstrong said of Rose. "He grew up in the public school system, grew up as one of those kids. He is Chicago, and he understands the city, understands the culture, understands the problems, understands the beauty of this place. He gets it.
"He'll come back [from his injury]. Life goes on, so he's able to put it in its proper perspective and realize that there are things out there besides himself. It's an amazing quality that he has at a young age."
This is hardly the first time Rose has shown his human side. There was the touching speech given to his mother while receiving the 2011 MVP award, the countless times reporters like myself were shocked by his willingness to be so respectful and giving of his time before and after games, and the way he has always gone about his career with a total absence of airs. He's the exception as opposed to the rule, to be sure, which is all the more reason to take notice.
When the NBA lockout was finally lifted last December, anyone who spent all those months covering the "mutant pizza" madness would have been happy if Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher never shared a sentence again.
But here we are almost 10 months later, and the two men at the helm of the National Basketball Players Association are still embroiled in a bitter battle that began during the six-month work stoppage. To review, there was the aggressive attempt of Hunter and his backers to oust Fisher as NBPA president in April, followed by Fisher's salvo in the form of an investigation into the union and its business practices that has gone way beyond the initial accusations of Hunter nepotism.
Fisher (a current free agent) remains in his position and sources said the respective probes of the NBPA -- from the U.S. Attorney's office investigation to the Department of Labor's review to the internal audit being conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison -- have yet to conclude. While the last inquiry was expected to be complete by now, resolution or clarity of any kind isn't likely to come by the time the NBPA holds a conference call with all participating players on Thursday.
According to a memo obtained by SI.com, the "Summer Meeting" was initially scheduled as an in-person affair at a hotel at Chicago's O'Hare airport. A follow-up memo was sent indicating that a conference call was preferable to most players and it detailed a fairly innocuous to-do list for the session.
"We will provide an update of current union business and cover matters including the distribution of 2011-12 group license funds, implementation of the new annuity program, and proposed rules changes from the competition committee," the memo read.
While Fisher has two seasons left in his term as NBPA president, Hunter, who earns $2.6 million annually as the executive director, has a contract that runs through 2016. The lack of answers about what lies ahead for the two union heads is sure to frustrate players like Phoenix forward Jared Dudley who aren't sure what to make of the saga.