by Aggrey Sam | @CSNBullsInsider
From his Saturday-morning in-store appearance at the adidas store in a downtown mall, to another meet-and-greet session at a Foot Locker in the Loop and finally, the “Run With DRose” event at the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club on the West Side (ironically, blocks from the United Center), there was a common theme: Chicago loves Derrick Rose.
That’s obvious, one might say. But this isn’t the type of love that just comes and goes. It’s the type of love that motivates a father to drive into the city from the suburbs in the middle of the night, so his 6-year-old son can camp out to meet his idol.
“He’s a big fan of Derrick Rose. He was so excited when we came here. We came here at 5 in the morning just to wait outside,” said Brian Hernandez, from Woodridge, Ill. “He’s a special player, special kid.”
“He’s cool,” shyly whispered his son, Ryan, clutching his new favorite possession, a photo with the MVP. “His slams are cool.”
It’s the type of love that drives a 25-year-old man to stop by his neighborhood rec center to show his appreciation for the homegrown superstar.
“It means a lot because I love seeing players give back anyway, but for him to be from here and be able to do this is huge,” said Dexter Newkirk, 25, a graduate of nearby Crane Tech, where claimed to play against Rose and alongside Sherron Collins.”His support system, it shows people coming up and players coming up what it takes to give back. How much it means to the kids and everything.
“That’s just Derrick. From the interviews and everything, that’s just Derrick. That’s how he was brought up,” he continued. “Always giving back, soft-spoken, humble. Not too many people have anything bad to say about him. That’s just Derrick and where he’s from and what he’s been through.”
For those closest to Rose, it’s somewhat of a culmination of a dream.
“I just think he’s so happy to have his own shoe. It’s like a dream come true. When he first signed with adidas, the No. 1 pick, the first thing a kid wants is his own shoe,” recalled his older brother Reggie Rose, who coaches his little brother’s namesake AAU team (an alum is UConn freshman Ryan Boatright and sophomore sensation Cliff Alexander is one of the nation’s best big men in his class) and was a renowned sharpshooter at both the Windy City’s Hubbard High School and the University of Wyoming back in the day. “In his contract, they said, ‘Well, if you do this, you can get your own shoe.’ Well, he did that and adidas lived up to the contract and said, ‘Well, it’s time for your shoe.'”
Being that the adiZero Rose 2 is the reigning MVP’s second signature shoe, he took greater responsibility in the design process this time around.
“[adidas] just asked me a whole bunch of questions, sat me down for an hour, two hours and just picked my brain and just asked me a million questions, and I’ve just got to answer them. They came up with the idea–the thought was everybody was on the flight, all the flights are canceled,” he explained about elements of the sneaker, specifically the “All Flights Cancelled” stitching. “But we’re [Chicago] cleared for takeoff.”
“Last year’s shoe was all right to me. It was nice, but this one is really just my decision on what the shoe should look like because the shoe, when they first came up with it, it didn’t look anything like this. The sides were different, they were high-tops. Then, they just came up with the whole idea of being short, low-top and I just wanted to be able to move. They’re kind of light, they’re the lightest signature shoe out there,” continued Rose, who first started wearing adidas when he matriculated at Memphis. “I sit there almost every time I’m meeting with them and they ask me a million questions, and they just come up with ideas. There’s been times when I told them I didn’t like the shoe—I didn’t like certain things on the shoe—and they changed it when I asked them to.”
“Just being comfortable in the shoe. As long as the shoe is comfortable and stable, I’m good.”
As important as the performance aspect of his shoe is to Rose—despite occasionally suffering ankle sprains during his young career, he professed to not be concerned about it being a low-cut sneaker, claiming, “With my braces, I shouldn’t have to worry about my ankle…I’m not worrying about it. When you worry about it, that’s when things tend to happen. I just try to work on getting better and try to stay positive, like I always do”—his own background as a South Sider with limited means puts an emphasis on the shoe being a good look off the court.
“First off, it’s a low-cut shoe. I’ve never played in a low-top shoe in my life and it’s something new. I think it’s a good-looking shoe. Kids can wear it to school. Kids can’t afford shoes like that anymore because of the recession. To me, I think this is my best-looking shoe that I’ve had out,” said Rose, who wore a cap with his new logo—a ‘D’ with a ‘1’ inside and a subtle rose, with petals representing his mother, Brenda, and three older brothers, Reggie, Allan and Dwayne—on the front and name above the back of the snapback. “I work out in them every day. I’ll be playing in them. If there is a season. Hopefully.”
“[Expensive sneakers were] out of reach. I had L.A. Gears, the ones that light up. You can’t hide anywhere. If you want to play ‘it,’ you’ve got to take them off so that people can’t find you. I had those kind of shoes. For real,” he joked.
Two people who can confirm those facts of his less-than-privileged upbringing were also present Saturday and marveled at their boy Pooh’s impact on their fellow city residents.
“It means a lot to come out here with Derrick. It’s a great experience to give back to the kids,” said childhood friend and personal assistant Randall Hampton, who played point guard for a season in Texas at traditional junior-college power Tyler with Bulls first-round draft pick Jimmy Butler. “The girls (a team of girls “beat” Rose’s squad in the three-on-three action) gave us a good run. It was good, though. Everybody else played great, it was fun.”
“It was different than when we play against each other because when we play, we go super, super hard at each other. Not saying we didn’t go hard out here, but it was for a different cause. We just wanted to give out and let Derrick give back to the kids and the people that support him the most,” added Tim Flowers, another longtime buddy, current roommate and former Simeon teammate who will play for local NAIA program Robert Morris this upcoming season. “I think it was a great turnout. The city of Chicago really embraced Derrick and everything that he’s brought to the table for the city of Chicago. It’s good for him to do events like this to give back and let his fans know that he truly cares about them.”
Another South Side native, the rapper Common, also showed up to hoop on the West Side. The former Bulls ball boy didn’t look out of place against Rose and his boys and was enthused just to be on the court with the city’s hoop hero.
“My game is still there, but the more I play, obviously the better I’ll be,” said the Windy City icon. “I haven’t played in a little while, but playing against ‘D-Rose,’ that’s one of the best to do it, so I wanted to go play. I wanted to win, man.”
Wearing a pair of adiZero Rose 2s, he stopped short of saying the kicks enhanced his game—”I’m explosive anyway,” he joked—but praised his fellow Chicagoan’s product.
“They feel great. I hadn’t rocked these before, so I put them on and I’m like, ‘These joints are light.’ They’re light and they’re comfortable. They’re good to hoop in, for sure.”
Of course, he also opined on his hometown squad’s chances of taking another step when the lockout is over.
“I think the Bulls have a good chance. They had the best record, so that wasn’t a fluke, man. They have a great team. When you think of a team, they’re a great team and they’re going to keep getting better and better. Of course, the competition is tough, but they can definitely pull something out.”
Aggrey Sam covers the Chicago Bulls for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.