Derrick Rose is not Kevin Durant, a big kid off the court with his backpack at press conferences and video-game nights with teammates, a superstar that doesn't yearn for the spotlight but doesn't seem particularly bothered by it either.
Derrick Rose is not Kobe Bryant, though they share the same killer instinct and on-court intensity. Rose doesn't seem interested in becoming a global icon like Kobe though, or Michael Jordan before him.
And Derrick Rose most certainly is not Blake Griffin, who seems like he would be as at home—or happy, for that matter—shooting a Funny or Die video as he is on the court.
No, Derrick Rose is different. He's stoic. Private. Sheltered, both by design and by upbringing. Like Larry Bird before him, he's the beloved superstar that is happy keeping people at bay. It isn't just that Rose doesn't seek out the spotlight or attention—no, he seems to downright loathe it.
In the post-Decision NBA, his is an anomaly, the consummate anti-superstar, which Will Leitch brought to light in his fantastic profile of Rose for GQ this month and Rose basically revealed through his own words:
Because the thing that Derrick Rose likes to do more than anything else in the world—winning basketball games—is making it more and more difficult to avoid the thing he dislikes more than anything in the world. "Don't get me wrong. I don't take anything for granted," he says. "But it seems like the better I play, the more attention I get. And I can't get away from it. You play great, you get attention. But I hate attention. It is weird. I'm in a bind. The more you win, the more they come."
Imagine that—a superstar actually hating attention. But maybe it goes deeper for Rose. Maybe he just hates his life belonging to everyone else.
The relationship between fans and athletes is an odd one. The fans view athletes with mix of awe and jealousy, amazement at the physical abilities athletes possess but jealousy over the obscene amounts of money athletes are paid to play children's games.
Athletes counter with a mix of appreciation and disdain. You too would be appreciative if you made the money they did, but you'd probably be annoyed if an entire city felt like it owned you.
The next time you are using the bathroom in a public setting, just imagine some crazed fan standing next to you, wanting to talk. Pretty strange, right?
That's what fans do. They buy tickets and merchandise, they fund the organization they love, and in return, they feel like athletes owe them something beyond what they give on the court or field.
But do athletes really owe us anything? Does Derrick Rose, a native of Chicago, owe the city anything beyond his play on the court? Does he belong to the fanbase, or should he be treated like any other citizen of the city?
That's the plight of the superstar, though. They're public figures—heroes for some, even—whether they like it or not. It turns some athletes into egotistical narcissists, to put it bluntly.
It's magnified in the NBA, where individual players can have a huge impact on the game, and in turn, the league markets those individuals more than the teams themselves.
But it also starts far earlier than that. Young kids play on AAU teams at young ages. They begin receiving attention from colleges and even agents before they are teenagers. For some athletes, coming from the inner city means they represent that family's means to a better life.
For many athletes, that can eventually lead to a God complex. The Decision seemed to be a product of that very phenomenon.
But for Derrick Rose, it seemed to turn him inward, making him quiet and observant. As Leitch notes in his profile, Rose was sheltered by his family for most of his life, the Golden Goose put in a protective shell, removed from the temptations of the street that swallowed many talented kids before him:
And yet for better or worse, Rose has essentially been walled off from the rest of the planet his entire life. He has always been the person around whom pieces have revolved, but he has never been the one actively commanding those pieces to move. It has turned him into a quiet person, the one guy in any room who's always listening.
The attention doesn't feed Rose's ego. No, attention has defined so much of his life that he's come to resent it now, to the point that he tells Leitch how excited he is to spend one day by himself in his apartment on an off day for the Bulls.
Imagine that—being excited just because you get one day to spend in your apartment. Forget about going out with friends, where he'll get mobbed by people. Nope, Derrick Rose will take some quiet time on the phone or hanging with a few friends in his apartment, thank you very much.
Rose will always be more popular among NBA fans than LeBron James because his focus remains solely on basketball. It's about being the best, about winning, about being the man with the ball in his hands when the chips are down.
That isn't to say LeBron James doesn't want to win or isn't a hard worker. He most certainly does, and he most certainly is. But LeBron is so accustomed to being the man that he has an incessant need to be liked, admired even.
Being a "cool dude," at least publicly, is important to him.
It's why the fallout from the Decision hurt him so much. Because for the first time in his life, he was the villain. The attention was no longer positive. LeBron goofing off and smiling was no longer charming—it just seemed smug.
LeBron didn't change. He just gave us a reason to look at him differently. Don't expect Rose to do the same. Don't expect a "Decision" from him. He said as much to Leitch:
The contrast with LeBron is one everyone loves to make, and Rose doesn't mind it himself. But Rose is as beloved now as LeBron was before The Decision. Does he worry that someday he might get LeBron'd himself?
"I won't ever put myself in a bad position so that people can say bad things about me," he says. "I make smart decisions, and my friends and my family, they are all there for the right reason. I'm very mature for 23 years old, and I know that whatever I do can hurt someone."
It's not just about Rose, you see. That part of the ego that generally swells when people constantly admire a person seems to shrink for him.
This isn't to say that Rose lacks pride, not at all—watch him on the court, and you know he wants to be the man. Hell, he knows damn well he is the man on most nights.
But that's where it stays. For him, that's where it belongs.
And that's why he's the anti-superstar. It may be refreshing, it may even be a little sad how controlled his life has been, but Rose doesn't seem to care what you think.
Frankly, he'd rather you focus on someone else. He'll settle for winning games.
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