Derrick Rose is the focal point of one of the most unique situations in sports history.
The former MVP has been out for more than a year due to ACL surgery, while other NBA players who suffered the same injury, such as Iman Shumpert and Ricky Rubio, have already returned to the court and excelled.
Fans and analysts are comparing the situations and judging Rose for remaining on the bench. It is difficult to recall a star player ever receiving this type of backlash for choosing not to return to action.
However, it is not just the fact that he is not playing that is causing controversy. His indecision about returning has allowed this to remain a story.
According to Nick Friedell of ESPN, Rose entered the postseason "most likely out" until the end of the year. However, he did "strongly consider coming back" against the Miami Heat, according to Bulls Insider Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com.
This inability to decide has led to more question marks, including from analysts such as Charles Barkley, who says that "it's too late" to come back and that he "should have been back during the regular season" (via NBA.com):
If he had just stated at some point that he would not play until the start of next season, this might have gone away. Instead, Rose has gradually become more and more of a controversial figure in the City of Chicago.
Of course, he did not go from being loved to hated overnight; throughout the year, things have become progressively worse. Here is a look at how the general feelings surrounding the Bulls' star changed over the course of the season.
Hope for the Future
Fans are smart enough to accept that tearing an ACL is a serious injury, and they knew they were looking at an extended absence from the team's best player.
One thing that kept the hope alive is this commercial by Adidas, showing the return of Rose to the court:
People were willing to wait as long as they knew that moment when he would return to a standing ovation would soon come to fruition.
Amazingly, the Bulls got off to a great start on their own, and the optimism grew stronger. The eventual return of the injured point guard was set to make this team one of the best in the NBA. At least, that was the prediction around the time of the All-Star break.
Rose Cleared to Play
As winter came to a close, people waited for the moment when Rose would be ready to return. It appeared that was going to happen in early March, when ESPN's Melissa Isaacson reported that the point guard had been cleared to play:
Derrick Rose's doctor has cleared the Chicago Bulls' star to play, a team source said, but his long-awaited return to the lineup won't occur until he can confidently dunk off his left foot, Rose has told the team.
The team is not pressuring Rose, the source said, but the Bulls are confident he will return this season and are still hoping for a mid-March return, which would mark 10 months after his surgery.
In case you hadn't heard, Rose did not return by mid-March.
By this time, he was already dunking the basketball during practice and showing signs that a return might be imminent.
Unfortunately, this continued to drag on for another few months. Every game he did not play made it seem like he was stalling for some unknown reason.
After a while, fans started to become annoyed with watching a player perform in practice without suiting up for games, and before long, it turned to anger.
Fans Turn on Their Hero
As time passed, those not intimately involved in the situation started questioning Rose's character and toughness. In addition, the fact that teammates Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and others have played through injuries appeared to make things worse.
Jemele Hill of ESPN had this to say about the injured player:
Jemele Hill @jemelehill
If Derrick Rose is healthy and doesn't come back now, he has no soul.2013-5-7 01:52:57
Michael Smith of Numbers Never Lie was a bit more forceful in his assessment:
Michael Smith @michaelsmith
Damn straight Derrick Rose should play in Game 3.2013-5-9 04:54:03
Then, of course, there were some humorous thoughts about Rose remaining on the bench. Mike Freeman of CBS had this to say at the beginning of Round 2:
mike freeman @mikefreemanNFL
Tupac will come back before Derrick Rose does.2013-5-7 00:57:47
That still was not as mean as a Photoshopped "statue" that some felt Chicago should erect to pay homage to the player (via Darren Rovell of ESPN):
Darren Rovell @darrenrovell
The new Derrick Rose statue making the rounds is cold blooded http://t.co/odY18NxBcB2013-5-6 00:21:23
Sports Pickle came up with this satiric look at a fake email account for Rose:
These are just some examples of the overall backlash, which ranges from playful joking to intense animosity directed toward the once-loved star.
However, none of this changes the fact that he is still injured and not planning on returning until he feels he is ready. All that these reactions do is put more pressure on him and raise expectations to unrealistic levels.
It is also important to note that his teammates have defended him throughout this entire process, as indicated by this recent statement from Noah, who has been the emotional leader of the squad (via Friedell):
If you tore your ACL and you have to be the starting point guard and have the expectations that Derrick has, then maybe you can judge, but everybody who hasn't been in that situation before should really shut up because I feel like it's just so unfair to him and to this team. We're fighting, and everybody's going to just s--- on somebody who's been giving so much to this organization. It's crazy to me.
Basically, no one knows what Rose is currently going through, so it is impossible to put ourselves in his shoes and judge him.
Craig Robinson might have said it best on SportsNation when he announced, "Everybody just calm down for a minute."
Nobody can make the decision for Rose to return except Rose, and fans should take him at his word when he says that he is not ready to help the team.
This backlash is completely unwarranted for a person who has done nothing wrong. He deserves better from fans in Chicago and across the country. Otherwise, the team may lose one of the best young players in the game for more than just this season.