Nov 1 2013 4:17PM

Wiping Away the Tears with a Teardrop


Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

Derrick Rose caught the ball at the three-point line with 9 seconds left and the Bulls trailing by one in their home opener. The crowd was silent following an 11-point fourth quarter swing and all eyes were on Rose. Tyson Chandler and Ray Felton were glued to Rose as he drove right to the baseline and all five Knicks crowded into the paint.

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A year ago, the Bulls throw it into Carlos Boozer with hopes of a double-team and Boozer finding the open man; perhaps they run a clear-out for Luol Deng and hope he does what he's not built to do; or if it were during the playoffs, give the ball to Nate Robinson and look away. Superstars in the NBA--the one percent ones in the League--are paid to do two things: consistently be a force on the team and to take--and hit at a reasonable clip--the big shots in the game. The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls--as good as their overachieving 45-37 record and first-round win over the Brooklyn Nets might indicate otherwise--were a team with no shot at the Finals. They were playing without their best player during the season and their best player in situations like last night.

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Rose gathered, and unlike the drama of his will-he/won't-he return to the court last season, he rose up with zero uncertainty. The right-handed floater arched high over the anticipating leap by Felton and more incredibly, the outstretched hand of the 7-1 Chandler and sent the Chicago crowd, which was all dressed-up for Halloween, into a frenzy.

It was the moment that Bulls fans have waited more than a year for. The beautiful teardrop erased any possible talk of his 7-23 effort from the field, his crucial turnover that tied the game at 80 and any thoughts of delaying his return from injury last season. Rose put a dagger into the heart of the New York Knicks and officially marked his return (sorry adidas, but the #thereturn officially happened on Oct. 31, 2013) and reminded the basketball world why he is the only player besides LeBron James to win an MVP over the past five seasons.

"That's what builds your resume. That leaves a mark on your legacy and I want to be known as one of those players," Rose said after the game, "I just love being in that position, being in the fourth quarter, having the ball in my hands, making all the decisions."

Legacy is an important word in a city like Chicago that has its share of all-time great players and moments. An MVP trophy looks nice on the mantle but it's the Larry O'Brien Trophy that fans and players really care about. If the Bulls want to put a seventh title into their trophy case, they'll need shots like this and they'll come from Rose.

The Chicago Bulls are a hard-working, defensive-minded team that is truly representative of the blue-color, no-nonsense workers that built the windy city. Rose, a native of Chicago, is the embodiment of that work ethic. But no matter how many bumps and bruises dot his body or how humble he remains, Rose is one of four transcendent stars in the NBA who can singlehandedly alter a game, a series, namely a hard-fought, but one-sided five-game Semifinals last season against the eventual-champs. Despite their best efforts, they were missing something.

The season is early and Rose is still shaking off the rust. Don't be surprised if 80 games and two playoff series from now, Rose hits a similar go-ahead floater with time running out. Only instead of Chandler, it's LeBron in his face.