Derrick Rose Returns to United Center for First 2013-14 Regular-Season Game

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 31, 2013

Oct 31, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) being introduced prior to a game against the New York Knicks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

For the first time in 18 months, Derrick Rose took the floor in front of the Chicago faithful for a regular-season game.

There were plenty of goosebumps to go around.

Throughout Rose's arduous rehabilitation process, there have been various checkpoints and milestones. It was a big deal when he could sprint for the first time. And his first recorded dunk on his bad leg had fans throughout the Windy City excited beyond measure.

Of course, his first preseason game featured as much fanfare as most playoff contests. A few weeks later, Rose debuted against the Miami Heat in South Beach. Those were all important steps on the comeback trail.

But this feels like the official culmination of Rose's long road back. He finally stepped onto the United Center floor in a game that was actually going to count in the standings. Rose surely valued the other benchmarks in his recovery, but I'm betting nothing felt quite as good as walking out of the tunnel Oct. 31.

As game time neared, there was some doubt as to whether Rose was going to be able to take the floor because of a sore neck. The point guard quickly put those questions to rest.

Per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune: "Oh hell yeah, for sure I know I’m going to play," said Rose, disputing coach Tom Thibodeau's claim that Rose was a game-time decision. "It’s just that I have to get loose."

The welcome D-Rose got from fans was so stunning that it caused ESPN's Stephen A. Smith to speak without shouting for the first time in 11 years.

You can tell he's subdued because of the lack of excess capitalization in his tweet.

Rose was a little jacked up after the emotional introduction, which led to an unusually itchy trigger finger.

It's hard to blame him, though. This moment has been a long time coming.

The Return is finally complete.