“I’m not looking for extra attention, I just want to be just like you, Blend in with the rest of the room…” – “Beautiful,” Relapse (2009)
As off base as it may read, success can ruin a person’s life. Prior to sitting down with Derrick Rose’s feature in the new issue of GQ, I was already well aware of two very important and revealing things about the Bulls’ floor general. The first being, he’s a pretty good basketball player. And second, he’s always appeared socially awkward. The money is growing quicker than grass and will do so with two newly minted monster contracts under his belt. His shoe line is popular. Chicago looks to be on its way to locking up the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive spring. Yet, and here’s the kicker, his quote in regards to his new celebrity was more than eye opening. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t take anything for granted. But it seems like the better I play, the more attention I get. And I can’t get away from it. You play great, you get attention. But I hate attention. It is weird. I’m in a bind. The more you win, the more they come.”
Derrick Rose despises fame. He hates the idea of it. He hates the concept of it. He even hates the fact that his calling in life is the direct opposite of matching his social capabilities. His “turn the other cheek” ideology to fame reminded me of another controversial Midwest superstar who has grappled with the idea of celebrity for well over a decade, Eminem.
Marshall has made a career placing the most intimate and damming aspects of his life on front street. Hailie, his daughter, who has lived her life as byproduct of her father’s art, will be old enough to obtain her learner’s permit pretty soon and Kim, well, her name has become synonymous with everything from drug use to domestic abuse. Rap saved Em’s life in the manner basketball took D-Rose out of the infamous Englewood neighborhood in Southside Chicago.
Prisoners of their own fame – which they both are – almost always find a way to experience mental breakdowns stemming from the impossible task of balancing personal insecurities with public perception. For Rose, hopefully, it doesn’t take becoming addicted to drugs after losing his best friend to gun violence. As the GQ article would go on to reveal, from the moment Derrick has been able to dribble a basketball, his life has been sheltered, drawn out and, to an extent, dictated for him. In that manner, for what it’s worth, he and Mathers stand as polar opposites.
“I don’t wanna quit, but shit, I feel like this is it, For me to have this much appeal I feel like this is sick, This is not a game, this fame, in real life this is sick…” – “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” The Eminem Show (2003)
Will Leitch’s trip inside the life, mind and business of Rose which proved, at least at times it seemed, that basketball’s youngest MVP ever was the worst thing to happen to Chicago’s current most recognizable basketball player. For a NBA built around the personalities of Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and more, Rose’s almost staunch ability to remain introverted in a game packed with extroverts is the stuff of legend. Take last year’s All Star Game, for instance. How uncomfortable did it appear when Derrick participated in the starting five-adopted powder toss alongside Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire and James? Or even more recent, how perturbed he looked while LBJ and D12 danced during introductions during this year’s game in Orlando.
There is no need to justify his fame. This partly because Rose, himself, and Em hate doing so. I’d bet my next two paychecks Derrick would give nearly anything in the world to live in anonymity as long as his mother and brothers were straight financially. And I’d put those same checks on the line to say Em would probably fade to black as long as Hailie was well taken care of. Carrying the weight of a city whose six championships during the 1990′s are still the crowning achievement sports wise is a burden also appearing to weigh heavily on his mind, too. “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.”
So, yeah, success, at least it seems from his own admission, is beginning to ruin his every waking moment. Every layup forcing Rose’s body to bend in ways most mere mortals fail the fathom is basically another avenue for the public to weasel their way in Derrick’s once very private life. Will it prohibit Chicago’s chances of ever returning to the NBA Finals and winning? Maybe not, but for a game requiring a committed mental and physical approach, it will be interesting to witness how his career progresses far beyond this season. Still very early in what looks to be an all time great résumé, it’s clear Derrick Rose loves the game. He just doesn’t love what the game brings; indeed, a double edged sword impossible to avoid leaving one’s body ravaged in scars.
The same way Eminem rarely embarks on a tour or shoves himself in front of a camera unless absolutely needed is mimicked in the manner in which Rose handles his public appearances outside of the United Center. We saw that during the lockout. It’s not wrong. It’s not right. It’s just Marshall. It’s just Derrick.