Posted Dec 21 2011 4:57PM
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Humility is cool.
Humility is friendly. It is inclusive, a big fat "we" instead of "me." Humility puts people at ease. It is appreciative. It is a shrug and a smile and the opposite of attitude, and how those things ever got misconstrued as bad things is a sad comment on the culture in general and the NBA in particular.
Derrick Rose knows humility.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, though, humility got shunted aside and snickered at. As in: Humility is weak. Humility is naïve. Humility is a sellout. It is for chumps, somehow leaving something on the table for others that could have been mine. Humility is deferential, subservient, unmanly even, and it makes one ripe for, oh, you know, getting taken advantage of by somebody, in some way, some day.
Humility, compared to all that nonsense, is sane.
Leave it to Rose and the Chicago Bulls to stay sane at the very moment when so many others succumb to insanity.
That moment came for Rose and his team Wednesday when the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player signed a contract extension for maximum years (five, starting in 2012-13) and maximum dollars ($94.8 million). "Getting paid," it's called in pro sports, and so often it is said with a sneer and treated less as a wonderful reward and enticement than as a debt collected.
Instead of a pact built on mutual interests and trust, it frequently gets framed as a shift in power, a pivot point from "You got over on me " to "Now I got over on you." The landscape -- not just in sports but everywhere -- is ridden with people who got paid and the organizations that paid them, and in far too many cases they no longer can stand the sight of one another.
Granted, if we've been reminded of anything in recent months, it's that, from the outside, we never really know much about the private ways of public people. So it's possible that years from now, Bulls general manager Gar Forman's words Wednesday about Derrick Rose will ring hollow. Based on everything up to this point, however, and everything that comes out of Rose's mouth or stems from his deeds, Forman is on solid, solid ground.
"Derrick's makeup, his character, his drive, his desire, his work ethic and his leadership not only on the floor but in our community have meant so much," Forman said, briefly setting Rose's actual basketball skills to the side. "And probably the greatest asset about Derrick Rose is his loyalty. I really can't think of anyone who is more deserving of this than Derrick Rose."
Is Rose for real? Is Rose for real? If I had $10 for every time someone has asked me that over the past 18 months, well, I'd only be about $92.8 million light on Rose's fat new financial package. Cynics might assume the worst. Skeptics will run from the question. But if you're at all in the spirit of the season, and you want to think the best and brightest about the NBA, then you plant your heels and say "Yes." (Knowing, of course, that the Internet is forever and eventually makes almost everyone look wrong).
In a news conference to announce Rose's deal -- which includes no opt-outs, no early-termination clauses, for the full five years -- the Bulls point guard thanked a laundry list of people and things in his life. He started and finished a little Tebow, thanking God, and no one in the room flinched.
Then he thanked the Bulls for drafting him, teammates and coaches for pushing him, the city of Chicago for backing him. His mother Brenda, his brothers, other family. And his buddies since grade school, a tight group of about eight "for not only being true friends but not being `yes' men and telling me things I need to hear and pushing me to be a better player."
He even turned to his mother, the woman he had pledged his MVP award to last spring, and said: "Mom, we've finally made it."
Rose made it from a place many do not, the harsh Englewood neighorhood on Chicago's South Side. Here he was, less than five years since Simeon High and never really removed from those streets, talking about the moment Wednesday when he signed his name to that paper with all the zeroes on it.
"Coming from where I'm coming from, I can't explain it," Rose said. "No one, from Englewood ... period, ever been in my position. Sometimes it makes you think, 'Why me?' For me to be 23 years old and I know that I'm truly blessed -- I don't take anything for granted. I appreciate every one around me, all my fans and my family."
The things Rose will be able to do in that neighborhood -- after-school programs to start, maybe an indoor basketball facility -- on top of things he already has done are a direct result of his basketball accomplishments. Which flow directly from his work in the gym, sure, but from his family's values, too.
"He embodies all the characteristics you look for in a championship player," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And it's a lot more than just the talent. ... When you look at his will to win, his basketball IQ, unselfishness, his humility, I think those are things you can build a championship-caliber team around. I think his poise and confidence come from his preparation. This guy puts in everything he his, every single day. Does it year round."
This is about the point where some readers may reach for their air-sickness bags, just to have at the ready. Then Rose starts talking about this season and topping himself and how he might be remembered in time, and it's pretty clear he doesn't have the acting chops to be fooling all of the people all of the time.
"First, make it to The Finals now," he said of his ambitions. "Just try to do better than last year. I'm not trying to jinx myself or anything but, of course, everybody goes, if you're playing this game, you want to win the championship.
"But who is going to put forth the effort? Who is going to go into the gym every day and work, even if you're tired? All those little things add up. For our team right now, I think every one of our guys is willing to put in that work. That's what makes all of us feel great here -- we have all positive guys willing to put in that work and our coaching staff is great."
OK, so Rose is just 23. Forgive him if he's not jaded yet. He surrounds himself with positive people, avoids negative ones and sounds as if he's open and trusting and happy to be a Bull.
Give him time, the smart guys will say. It's not the second contract when a young star shows his colors, it is the third. That's when things got hinky for LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and their initial teams' fans. That's why Dwight Howard and Chris Paul dominated NBA headlines before ink was dry on the league's new deal with its players.
Rose also has been fortunate to be drafted by his hometown team, which happens to play in one of America's most passionate sports towns, with a franchise that ranks among the NBA's crown jewels. Would he feel the same or stay as humble if he were sitting in Sacramento or Cleveland at the moment?
Impossible to know. But Rose never said boo about his new deal until it was put in front of him. He has neither banged his drum for superstar-buddies to come to Chicago nor whined about his need to play somewhere warmer, flashier or where they spend more lavishly on payroll.
Rose has a place in L.A. where he heads each offseason, but he doesn't need to winter there. He dislikes All-Star Games or regular-season games that feel like one, so when it comes to recruiting his pals to join him, he would rather line up with his current teammates and take them on. He might have peers -- Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, a few more -- who will feel the same, a possible generational shift in the NBA.
When asked directly about Howard, Paul and Anthony and what their personal agendas did or still could do to their teams, Rose said: "Everybody's different. To each his own. They handled it their own way. I don't have a say-so about it. I'm just happy we got things done here. And I'm happy to be a Bull."
Moments later, in case anyone might have missed his point, Rose said: "Just everything has been perfect. How could I ask for anything better?"
Humility is cool. Humility is a Bull.
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