As last season’s NBA playoffs intensified, I found myself rooting for Derrick Rose harder than I’ve ever rooted for any professional athlete. Defending him, even. Sometimes, I’d even feel my temperature rise when hearing or reading a criticism lobbed his way.
This by itself is nothing really worth mentioning. Rose is very popular and plays with an aesthetically pleasing recklessness and audacity that is completely unique to him. Of course I—an NBA diehard—would be a big fan of his game.
Derrick Rose is not one of my favorite NBA players. In fact, if I had to list the 20 or players I enjoy watching the most, Rose probably wouldn’t crack the list. I actually think he’s somewhat overrated.
Also, he did not play a minute of NBA basketball last season.
So, um, why was I rooting for him?
Well, in April of 2012, Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. For an athlete, this is one of the scariest and most devastating injuries you can receive. For someone like Rose, a man whose livelihood is predicated on his ability to twist, torque, and explode off that knee, it would be especially harrowing.
Between surgery and rehab, it usually takes a year before you “fully” recover. And, “fully” is in quotes because, as long as I’ve been watching NBA basketball, I’ve never seen anyone recover completely from a torn ACL. Sure, players have returned and have had very productive careers, but no one has come back as quick and explosive as they were before.
So, Rose sat out the entire 2012-2013 NBA season. But, as the Bulls advanced into the playoffs—and as reports leaked that his knee was healthy enough to play—he became a national source of ridicule for his decision to not suit up.
“Man, that dude has no heart!!!” men screamed while sitting on their couches in their Dad’s old pajamas, smearing Cheetos stains on the universal remote.
“Derrick Rose is a quitter” others typed on message boards, moments before going back to XHamster.com and searching for Asian DPs.
“F*ck you, p*ssy!” some even screamed at him during games, shouting so vigorously that the rolls on their backs did the Wobble.
None of this surprised me. The sports world is a strange place, and strange things—like people questioning the heart of a kid who scratched and crawled his way out of the Southside of Chicago to become one of the best athletes on Earth—happen in strange places.
It did, however, reinforce the idea that athletes in general—and young Black athletes in particular—aren’t supposed to own their bodies. It didn’t matter that Rose repeatedly said he wasn’t physically or mentally ready yet. A doctor whose salary is paid by the Chicago Bulls said he was ready, so that nigga better play! F*ck how you feel, and f*ck your future. Get on the court, and help us fill up that arena!
Titled Chris Brown Brags About Losing His Virginity When He Was Eight, it mocks Brown as the author wonders how he was able to turn “…a personal confession into yet another opportunity to showcase how unpleasant he seems.” If you think the author’s tone completely and intentionally glosses over the fact that if Brown was truly eight years old (Eight!!!) when this happened, he was raped, you’d be right.
Although Brown’s admission obviously is in a completely different ballpark than an ACL tear, the flippant reactions to both Brown’s story and Rose’s injury seem to come from the same place: Black men aren’t supposed to feel any physical, mental, or emotional pain.
You blew out the knee your career is dependent on? Who gives a damn? We’re playing the Clippers. You need to guard Chris Paul. You admit you had sex with a person twice your age when you were still at an age where some kids still think Santa Claus exists? You’re a Black male, and you’re inherently hyper-sexual. I’m sure you loved every minute of it, and I’m also sure that experience had absolutely no effect on your self-esteem, your self-worth, or your feelings about women. Go take another nude selfie.
The NBA season is a couple weeks away. The Bulls open up against the Heat. Lebron James is one of my favorite players, and I want the Heat to win. I do not want everyone who questioned Rose’s heart last spring to tear their ACLs while jumping off their futons to celebrate a vicious Rose dunk. But, you have to admit, that would be kinda poetic.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)