Boats Against The Current
Talent is, for lack of a better explanation or phrasing, born into each of us. Whether we find our talent or not, and whose responsibility that is, can guide us to the almighty fulfilling of potential. It can be difficult, and some of us spend entire lifetimes searching for that fulfillment, as if those who’ve figured it out are members of a clandestine organization which exists merely to minimize the fact that, hey, you found $5 on the ground today, and isn’t that swell? Pay your taxes on time, save up, and maybe one day you too (yes, you!) will be able to shell out upwards of $240 for the privilege of taking your family to see a pair of so-called “professional basketball clubs” play against one another, but gee, they sure do try hard, don’t they?
Then, of course, there are those who figure out their talents, perhaps from a very early age. Mozart composed his first Minuette at age five. Picasso’s first words apparently referenced a pencil, for drawing. I’ve already covered Bob Dylan, Bobby Fischer and Mario Balotelli, each of whom was successful at his trade from an early age, each of whom fascinates me in a particular way.
Derrick Rose earned a place in NBA history at age 20; by the time he was 22, he had earned a place in basketball lore. Being the league’s Rookie of the Year and its Most Valuable Player within three seasons will do that to a man (Shout out to Wes Unseld THO). Expectation accompanies potential, and the more Rose delivered, the more people wanted. When Mick Jagger sang about getting no satisfaction, it’s possible he was reaching an ear into the future, toward basketball fans. Not likely, sure, but possible.
Two major injuries and another, more opaque one now separate Derrick Rose from the year he owned the world. The kind of rapid-fire explosiveness he once held in the palm of his hand revolutionized the game he played, taking us so far ahead that teams and players are still reaching for his years-old shadows.
Today’s game, and the Twittersphere which accompanies it, allows us as fans to pick and choose the spots when we pay attention. A few things make me drop everything and reach for a remote and/or go searching for the best possibly illegal feed I can find. These include either of the Splash Brothers creating rain on a sunny day, Damian Lillard down x-points with x-time remaining and Kevin Durant going St. Ignatius Loyola on some poor sap who’d love to play flag football with him.
Others have written it, which makes it no less true, but the closest we have to replicating the feeling of Derrick Rose taking over in 2011 is Russell Westbrook, right now, beating opponents into a previous dimension in a blurry, blue and white fit of nuclear fission. I didn’t have a smart phone in 2011, much less Twitter capabilities on the go, so I don’t even know how true that is, but I do remember the Rose highlights from that year, and the exasperation of announcers who couldn’t properly verbalize what they were seeing when that matador went charging into fire, only to come out with ice.
Excepting Westbrook – which is a gargantuan exception – there isn’t anyone in the NBA who plays with such clock-stopping reckless abandon as Rose once did. That should make us appreciate his best period all the more, but instead we get hung up on how his cubes don’t include blue men playing guitars, even though he’s trying really, really hard to please. Rose’s injuries bring the rueful desperation of Bulls fans, though it decreases each time, and the hang-ups of people who don’t get paid as much as he does to do things they can’t possibly do, bum knees or not. The window isn’t closed yet, but the shudders are banging against the vinyl siding, and one of these days one of those windows is going to crack.
Derrick Rose has endured a lot. He has shouldered the burden of people who were given so much in the ’90s that everything else is simply a mirror used to reflect that gilded age. For one glorious season, he went higher, farther and faster than any other basketball player, only to have it crush him.
A monumental tragedy in this world is untapped potential, because it usually means one more naturally gifted than the rest simply got bored or lazy and allowed ennui to consume him or her. It is frustrating because the rest of us look on, stomping our feet into the ground and muttering, “If only I had that…” Perhaps the only tragedy greater in magnitude, then, lies with the fate that befalls those who do tap into their talent and earnestly attempt to cultivate it as best they can. By all accounts, Derrick Rose is no slouch, and he has done his best to work back from every affliction. Still, it isn’t enough. For those with his combination of talent and expectation, it never is.
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