Columns and Features

The Tragic Story of the Derrick Rose Era

Owner/editor Ashley Wijangco revisits and shares her thoughts on Derrick Rose’s time as a Chicago Bulls now that it has come to an end with his recent trade to the New York Knicks.

It was set up to be a perfect story.

We hadn’t seen it since LeBron James was taken first overall in the 2003 NBA draft: the hometown kid going first overall, fulfilling his lifelong dream for his home team; the kid who would turn things around for his home team; the kid who would bring the oh-so-coveted Larry O’Brien championship trophy to his hometown.
Derrick Rose was that for Chicago. Or at least he was supposed to be.


When the Chicago Bulls landed the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft lottery, it was as if fate was on their side. They had just a 1.7 percent chance of grabbing that top pick, and it landed it their hands.

At the time, Rose wasn’t the consensus choice for No. 1 in the draft. The debate was whether Rose, the Chicago kid who spent a year at Memphis, or Michael Beasley, the forward with no connection to Chicago who spent a year at Kansas State, should go first.

As we all know, the Bulls went with Rose, and it would soon prove to be the correct choice.

By the time Rose was to make his NBA debut, he had secured the starting point guard spot. As much as Kirk Hinrich, who had been the team’s starting point guard, had done for the Bulls up to that point, as much as he had been loved by the Bulls organization, making Rose the starter was no brainer.

This wasn’t the Hinrich and Ben Gordon-led Baby Bulls anymore. It was the start of a new era: the Derrick Rose era.

In Rose’s NBA debut on Oct. 28, 2008, the Bulls defeated the Milwaukee Bucks by 13 points. While Rose wasn’t great from the field, shooting 3-for-9, he still managed to impress, posting a near double-double of 11 points and nine assists. By his third game, Rose would have his first 20-point game with 26 on 11-of-20 shooting in a 10-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Rose’s rookie season faced a few bumps along the way, as a couple of single-digit scoring games were sprinkled into his season. But, overall, there was no question Rose was good for the Bulls, that Rose was right for the Bulls. After a dismal 33-49 season, he helped bring the Bulls back to the playoffs for a seven-game series with the Boston Celtics, which has been dubbed as potentially the best playoff series.

Rose brought the youth, athleticism and excitement that Chicago had lacked, but, most importantly, he gave Chicago hope.

Just days after putting up 36 points and 11 assists to lead his Bulls to an unexpected 105-103 overtime victory over the Celtics in his playoff debut, Rose accepted the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy, signifying his status as the 2009 Rookie of the Year. He was just the third Bull to be named Rookie of the Year, but the lone one to be from Chicago.

It would be a few more seasons until Rose truly showed Chicago why we should unquestionably put our faith in him, but we already knew this kid was special.


A year later, Rose was coming off his first All-Star season, 2009-10. But he was still young and inexperienced, and he was no match for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come postseason. It wasn’t his time yet, but it was soon approaching with his historic 2010-11 MVP season just right around the corner.

Swift drives to the basket, his ambidextrous ability to finish at the rim, the way he could contort his body only to make insane layups, pull-up midrange jumpers, an improved 3-point shot, another All-Star season, a career-high average of 25.0 points per game. Rose treated not just Chicago to all that, but the basketball world, too, and it was impressive enough to name him as the 2011 Most Valuable Player — as the youngest MVP the NBA has ever seen.

Rose was giving his heart and soul to the Bulls, never leaving the hardwood without his giving it his all. Chicago had never had so much faith in its team since it had the honor of seeing Michael Jordan grace the court in Bulls red and black, and Rose only gave more reason for Chicago to put its faith in him come the playoffs.

The Bulls took the Indiana Pacers out in five games. Then, despite a bigger a challenge, they grounded the Atlanta Hawks in six games the next round. All the Bulls had to do was extinguish the newly hated Miami Heat and its Big Three of Chris Bosh, James and Chicagoland native Dwyane Wade.

All Rose had to do was get around James this time, make up for not being able to beat his Cleveland team back in 2010, and he’d have his chance to give his hometown a championship. But that wasn’t a simple task, and it was much easier said than done.

Scoring no less than 20 points in each of the five game, Rose couldn’t do it. He wasn’t enough. His team wasn’t enough. But it wasn’t the end. If anything, it gave Chicago more faith in Rose. With just a little bit more experience and help, the Bulls could undoubtedly get to the Finals.


Holding on to his knee and down.

Those words forever haunt Chicago and it fans. Those words and the heartbreak attached to them are the first things we’ll all think of whenever the 2011-12 season comes to mind.

Nothing else mattered.

It was on that Sunday afternoon in April that we all mourned for our point guard, our star, our MVP and for the likelihood that our championship chances had been shattered. No one deserved to be injured and go out like that, but no one more than Rose. He was Chicago’s hero, and his quest for glory had been going well. We needed him, but fate and a torn ACL didn’t care.

Some fans let their anger out at Tom Thibodeau for leaving Rose in the game when the Bulls already had a solid, double-digit lead with about a minute and a half left in that first game. Others weren’t so quick to point fingers.

Things looked bleak for the Bulls, but #DoItForDerrick ended up being alive and well.

It didn’t happen, though. The Bulls lost the first-round series, which many believed would favor the Bulls in five games, to the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-2. But those predictions came before Rose went down. No one could have predicted such a tragic end for the Bulls, for Rose — who had only continued to give leave his heart and soul on the hardwood for Chicago, who had only sacrificed himself to bring glory to his hometown.

But no one could have predicted Rose’s torn ACL would begin a new chapter of Rose’s life, one filled with nothing but more injuries and disappoint, criticism from fans — fans who had once been on his side, putting their complete faith in him.


Rose was predicted to miss eight to 10 months because of the torn ACL, but he decided to skip the entire season despite the fact he returned to practice fully while the season was still in play. Some people understood; he understands his body, himself better than anyone, so he’ll come back when he’s ready. But others couldn’t understand why he would wait so long, why he wouldn’t get back to his mission of winning a championship for his hometown team at the first chance he could.

#TheReturn had been delayed, and nothing was ever the same even when #TheReturn came.

In the rest of Rose’s days as a Bull, he became known as an injury-prone player. He had a plethora of minor injuries, but déjà vu struck on the night of Nov. 23, 2013: Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee, and he was out for the season just 10 games into his return season. Déjà vu struck again on Feb. 24, 2015 when the Bulls announced Rose had torn his meniscus yet again.

Although that was Rose’s last major injury, the minor injuries kept coming, and people questioned whether his heart was really in it, if he even wanted to play anymore. He sometimes said questionable things, things that made it seem like his focus was on life after basketball, as if basketball wasn’t important anymore. And with all that came the criticism, but never another chance at the ultimate goal of winning a championship for his hometown.


Derrick Rose came to the Bulls as a potential hometown hero. Chicago already loved him from his days at Simeon, and whatever parts didn’t came to love him for all he gave. He has left as someone different, though. By some, his image is tainted; the never-ending string of injuries has overtaken memories of the hero Rose was to the Bulls, to Chicago.

Rose doesn’t get to leave his home with a championship or glory, the perfect story. He gets to leave with a tragic story of what could have been.

But don’t blame Rose for all of the heartbreak and pain, the unfulfilled potential for greatness. He may not have fully bloomed into a champion, but he still bloomed in Chicago, giving hope for better basketball. Things were much worse before he came along. And he literally gave up his body for Chicago. We should do nothing but thank him for his time in Chicago and for all he has done and wish him the best.

The Bulls’ Derrick Rose era is done. It’s not perfect, and that’s fine. It didn’t live up to all of the expectations, but Rose still made Chicago into something better, and his story isn’t done. Only his story as a Bull is.

Rose is still the hometown kid who will forever be with Chicago even if that’s not what his jersey says. Rose can still do the city proud because it’s a part of him.

This is still Rose’s story, and Chicago will always be a proud part of it.

Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.