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Steve Aschburner

With his and family in the front row, a teary-eyed Derrick Rose honored his mother in accepting his award.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Rose defies odds to bring MVP trophy back to Chicago

Posted May 4 2011 12:13AM

LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. -- One-point-seven percent.

That's what all of this comes down to: 1.7 percent.

The trophy. The cameras. The cable telecast and the streaming video.

Sixty-two victories. Two rounds of playoffs (and maybe more). A landslide share -- 113 of 121 -- of the first-place votes cast for the NBA's 2010-11 Kia Most Valuable Player Award.

A franchise's revival. Some coaches' and teammates' careers. A family's dreams.

A hotel ballroom Tuesday afternoon at a golf resort northwest of Chicago, 44 miles by GPS from the gritty Englewood neighborhood where Derrick Rose grew up, several worlds apart in every way the maps can't measure. A woman in the front row, flanked by her other children and by family friends. The baby of the bunch at a podium a few feet away, standing under the bright lights on a day all about him but choking up at the thought and sight of his mother as he gazed down upon her.

One-point-seven percent.

If you pulled off some Hollywood wizardry with this tale and fast-reversed the images to its most fragile, capricious point, you would see a bunch of guys in suits, sitting uncomfortably in a New Jersey TV studio, fidgeting as some game show-sized envelopes were torn open. Logos of NBA teams, one by one, were pulled and revealed, the draft lottery grinding through its duty, setting up the selection order for the 2008 edition.

Near the end, there were three. Then -- "Minnesota" -- just two. Finally -- "Miami" -- only one: The Chicago Bulls won the No. 1 pick. Not just beating but hoodwinking, ambushing and bum-rushing the odds, because they had begun the night with a 1.7 percent chance of moving up from ninth place to first.

Ninety-eight-point-three percent against. And then, for an instant, like stars in the heavens, it all aligned.

The Bulls. The draft. The kid from Englewood.

Here everyone was now, not even three years later, that longest of long shots producing not just the 2010-11 NBA MVP but the youngest MVP in league history. The first in 38 years (since Dave Cowens in 1973) to snag the award without previously getting as much as a fifth-place vote. And the second of the 29 players who have won MVPs to do so in the city in which he was born and raised -- Wilt Chamberlain won it four times in the 1960s while playing for his hometown Philadelphia Warriors and 76ers.

Because if you peel away everything that Derrick Rose and the Bulls have accomplished and still hope to, this MVP award -- at its heart -- is about a local boy making good.

"It feels good to bring it back to Chicago," Rose said, when asked after the trophy presentation about Michael Jordan's five MVPs with the Bulls. "I think we deserve it. It gives the city something to brag about. It just brings excitement back to the city. It feels good when you go out and people are chanting for you when you go into a restaurant. Some people will pay your bills [laughter] so it feels good."

That 1.7 percent might apply here, too, as the success rate for NBA players in surviving, never mind thriving, as star athletes in the cities where they grew up. Sure, there's allure, the thrill of making it big where it matters most. But there are distractions, too, and responsibilities, and all sorts of tugs and demands and temptations that can crowd out the basketball making it all possible.

Some players understand that they need to get away, sometimes the farther the better. Certain teams will draft away from that sort of situation, anticipating and opting out of the problems.

The Bulls embraced them. They knew the morning after the lottery that Rose's talent made him their likely pick at No. 1. Then they spent more than a month confirming it, getting to know Rose, poking at his background, liking all the answers.

"He talked today about his family building a 'wall' around him," Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. "They kept him grounded. They kept bad influences away from him. So he grew up the right way. He grew up with values. So we never felt that was going to be an issue.

"The wonderful thing about it is, he feels a genuine responsibility to perform and to do well, and he carries that. I think it's a wonderful thing."

Rose, 22, probably would have been an NBA success wherever he played. He might have made it two All-Star Games for the Heat or the Timberwolves. Conceivably, he could have become the first MVP who's still within four years of high school by playing in Memphis or Oklahoma City or Milwaukee.

But it might not have happened that way at all. And it surely wouldn't mean as much. There's a reason Rose asked the public-address announcer to skip Memphis in his game introduction and simply go with, "From Chicago!..."

"Playing here every single night is great," Rose said of his city. "Our fans are great. And just being here, this is what I'm proud of. For me and my teammates to bring excitement to the city, I know it means a lot to [people]."

It means a lot, clearly, to the people who mean the most to Rose. They were all there, lined up in chairs as he spoke and acknowledged each of them. When he got to Brenda, the single mother who raised Dwayne, Reggie, Allan and finally "Pooh" (their grandmother's nickname for Derrick), the newly minted MVP got emotional.

Derrick Rose and his mother, Brenda, pose with the Maurice Podoloff trophy.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

"Last but not least, I'd like to thank my mom," Rose said. Long pause, searching for words. "Brenda Rose ... my heart. The reason that I play the way I play. Just ... everything."

"Pooh" was a family project, not to nurture a future NBA MVP but to get him through Englewood and Simeon Career Academy H.S. without mishaps. Mishaps being cheap and plentiful on Chicago's South Side. The youngest one returned the favor by working hard at basketball and keeping his nose clean.

"If anything I was scared of my mom. Because I didn't want to hurt her," Rose said Tuesday. "Seeing my mom mad or sad really hurt me. She would always hurt me with words -- I rarely got whupped. If anything, my brothers beat me up a couple of times. But that probably was because I was aggravating them. Being a pest. But I was the little brother, I had to do that."

The family still looks out for him, screening the burgeoning requests, cutting him slack for occasional, off-limits "Derrick time" (translation: extra sleep). The wall still is in place -- it's just that Rose peeks over it from time to time now to enjoy the marvelous view.

"He's still a kid at heart," Brenda Rose, beaming, told reporters. "He still runs through the house. He still acts silly. That's the main thing, and I don't want him to lose that."

When Rose startled everyone at the start of training camp by asking why he couldn't win MVP, his mother was fine with what seemed a wild ambition. "I thought, 'Go for it.' And that's what happened," she said.

Now she soon will have an honest-to-goodness Maurice Podoloff trophy to display at the home Derrick bought her, next to or near his 2009 Rookie of the Year award. "I want to have it for at least a couple days before she steals it," Rose joked. "Just give me like two or three days, Mom."

Said Brenda: "That [MVP] means a whole lot, especially in the city of Chicago. Because we play hard. All of our teams in Chicago play hard. Atlanta -- we're going to play hard!"

In between all the hardware handling and speechifying -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau picked up the NBA Coach of the Year Award Sunday -- there is the small matter of this 2011 postseason. The Bulls got smacked by Atlanta in Game 1 Monday and Rose, near the end of the 103-95 loss, rolled the same left ankle that he had sprained at Indiana in the first round. But the swelling is down, Rose reportedly participated fully in Tuesday's practice and, just as his teammates filled the back of the ballroom for his special day, he plans to be there for them in Game 2 Wednesday.

"It's all positive right now," Rose said. "We know we lost the game. We watched film, we had a good practice. ... I know tomorrow this will be out of my mind. The game will really be on my mind."

There will, of course, be a brief on-court showing of the Podoloff trophy. "It's for them," Rose said. "My fans do so much, man. Supporting us, supporting me, buying my shoe, buying a jersey, showing a lot of love to the team around the world. I'm blessed to be in this organization."

And vice versa.

"I've said it a million times: We're so lucky to have Derrick," Paxson said. "To think we were so lucky to get Michael Jordan back in 1984 and now, after 2008, back here we are with Derrick, that's pretty good fortune for an organization."

Especially with a 1.7 percent chance.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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