by Nada Taha Moslehy
It was 8:30 a.m. on a hot, summer Wednesday in Orlando. Most 21 year olds are sitting in a desk at the start of their summer college classes or trying to make a quick buck in between semesters.
This 21-year-old, however, was getting primped and primed. He had cameras in his space and lights shining in his eyes. He was being handed an icy Powerade bottle by someone with gloves on, and each time he took a sip, the bottle was refilled. There were dozens of people in the Milk House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex – all there to capture Derrick Rose’s basketball skills like passing, dribbling and dunking. But the Chicago Bulls’ starting point guard and most important player was still a kid at heart.
In between shots of his Powerade commercial, he threw the ball at his childhood friend and challenged him to a game of H.O.R.S.E. Usually one to keep to himself, he told me how he had never been to a beach in Florida and warned me of the cold winters in Chicago. Derrick, who had joined forces with Powerade two months prior, was the center of attention. But to him, it was an honor. He was humbled by the opportunity. “I’m only 21,” he said. It’s not something he imagined while growing up in Englewood on the southwest side of Chicago.
But could he even have imagined where his short 21 years of life would have taken him? High school state championships, the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and the inclusion in to the elite group of best point guards in the NBA. The commercial was supposed to showcase the intensity and effort athletes put in to their training and on the court – something Derrick never leaves behind, even in the off-season.
SLAM: How’s the commercial shoot going?
Derrick Rose: It’s going good. Doing a lot of dunking. If anything, I’m just happy to be here. My friends are here, so I’m comfortable.
SLAM: What do they have you doing?
DR: A lot of drills. Making sure I have a lot of energy, being aggressive — if anything just have fun.
SLAM: How is it to do the commercial and then see the commercial when it’s edited and all put together?
DR: It’s crazy. I’m only 21, so for me to be in commercials, that’s something I would have never thought. I wasn’t even thinking about it when I was younger so this is like a dream come true.
SLAM: What’s your biggest memory in a commercial shoot?
DR: All commercials are different but this one especially with Powerade means a lot to see all the other players they’re doing other commercials with certain energy drinks but I have Powerade so that means a lot to me.
SLAM: What’s your favorite Powerade flavor?
DR: Fruit punch. All my friends drink it. They send a lot to the house.
SLAM: Are you watching the Playoffs?
DR: A little bit. Here and there but if anything I’m just with my family and with my friends and playing video games. I play a lot of 2k Sports. I’m competitive so are my friends so we love going against each other.
SLAM: As one of the best point guards in the League and the best player on your team, what do you do in the off-season? What do you work on?
DR: You just try to add something to your game every year. This year I’m just working on my jump shot and making my range a little bit longer and working on my leadership skills. I think that because I’m so quiet I think that I need to be more vocal so that my teammates can look at me as a leader even though I’m young and if anything just go out there and try to win at the end.
SLAM: Have they told you that? Have they said, ‘Hey we want you to yell at us and be more vocal’ or is it just you as a person?
DR: I think as a person, as a point guard, I need the leadership skills and I hear it every time we play by Joakim Noah – he’s like a big brother to me – he don’t care if it hurts your feelings or whatever, he’s doing it just to win so he’s always telling me to talk a little bit more and call out the plays.
SLAM: What are some differences you’ve seen as a second-year player?
DR: You see a lot. I understand the game a little bit more on the defensive end and the offensive end. You try to be more comfortable with the system and next year is going to be different because everything will be like my rookie year – a new coach and new players.
SLAM: Speaking of a new coach, obviously there are a lot of rumors going around about Phil Jackson… is that something you think could happen? Do you want it to happen?
DR: I would love it to happen but we’ll have to see. I mean, he’s a Hall of Fame coach and whatever team he coaches, they’re successful so we would love him but if not, I guess we’d have to find someone else.
SLAM: What about (John) Calipari? How cool would it be to have your college coach you in the NBA? Do you think he’d be as effective in the NBA?
DR: It would mean a lot. I really don’t know. His college record is quite crazy and the NBA is tough. I know that he coached the NBA before, and if he came back here, I would love it, but if not, I wish him the best of luck.
SLAM: So, President Obama said that he would like to see LeBron come to Chicago. You know I have to ask, do you think he’s being a homer? Do you think it could happen? Do you want it to happen?
DR: I’ll say if it happened, it would mean a lot and it would help the team, but if not, there’s a lot more free agents out there that could help in almost the same way but if he came it would mean a lot to me and Chicago.
SLAM: Do you think he would be a good fit?
DR: Definitely. A player like him would fit in to our system.
SLAM: What do you think of the 2010 free agency?
DR: Probably the best ever. One of the best ever, I know that. With free agents like that, you probably wouldn’t have a group like that for a long while.
SLAM: Is there anyone in particular that you’re eyeing?
DR: I wish I could have all of them. Just give me all of them. Nah, just give me one or two of them and I think we’d be better than last year.
SLAM: What are your goals for next year? Where do you see the Bulls going?
DR: Past the second round. Hopefully get to the championship, get to the Finals. I’m the type of player who thinks that we can get far, especially with the team that we have. We have a young group where we don’t care about the stats or what we’re doing and all that – we just want to win games. I know that the owners and everybody else is doing a good job with recruiting and we put our faith and belief in them and where they’re taking our team.
SLAM: What do you think it’s going to take for you guys to actually push past the second round?
DR: It’s going to be the players that we’re getting. The coaches, the players that we’re getting because… I think those free agents can lift us over.
SLAM: You’re right now on the cusp of being one of the best point guards. You’re doing all these commercials; Adidas just signed you for a new shoe. How does that feel?
DR: I can’t believe it. Somebody from Englewood made it this far where people in my neighborhood – it’s typically a bad neighborhood – people don’t really don’t go to college, they drop out of high school. My mom struggled all her life and the baby boy of the family is doing something good and playing in the NBA and being in commercials and doing anything that he wants to do and next year I’ll get my shoes.
SLAM: What are the shoes like? Did you play a big role in their design?
DR: They came to me with some styles and I told them the styles I liked the most and they just ran with it. They asked me all types of questions like, What do you like? What do you eat? What type of car do you drive? They’re just really creative people and that’s why I love adidas. They’ve been good with me and hopefully people love the shoes.