Kobe Bryant had a few words for Derrick Rose after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls in Los Angeles earlier this season. He explained that he "just told him [Rose] to stay healthy and continue the job he's doing."
Bryant went on to say of Rose, "I don't think you can develop (a killer instinct). You either have it or you don't. He's had it since he was in high school."
So then Michael Wilbon, who was doing the interview, asked Bryant if he was "passing the torch" to Rose.
Bryant replied, "I ain't passing **** to anybody."
Wilbon asked if Rose was going to have to take it.
Bryant asserted, "He can certainly try."
So Rose did, at least for a night.
In last night's game, what was so remarkable is not that Rose took over another game and willed his team to win. Heck, we're starting to get used to that.
It's that he did it when Kobe Bryant was trying to do the same thing for the Lakers, and Rose won!
Over and over again, Rose just seemed to decide to win. When the Bulls were down by 13, Rose just took the reins and started scoring.
It was a "will-play" that got the Bulls going. Down by 13, Taj Gibson missed a 13-foot jumper. Pau Gasol was going up for the rebound and then Derrick Rose, at a fully stretched 6'3", out-jumped the seven-foot Lakers center, and ripped the ball out of his hands.
Then, he came down, jumped again, and scored in the face of the same seven-footer.
After that, the Bulls started to come back. When the Bulls tied the game at 32-32, it was on another Rose basket. On their 24-11 run, Rose had scored or assisted on 12 of the Bulls' 24 points.
Even the points he wasn't responsible for, he was responsible for, as the Lakers were so focused on him they were doing things like leaving Carlos Boozer in man-on-man coverage under the basket.
What was truly special is when the Bulls were up 13 near the end of the game, Kobe decided it was time to bring the Lakers back and willed his team to the next eight points.
It was then that Derrick decided it was his house, and it was his game, not Kobe's. He drove the lane and scored, ending the Lakers' run.
When Derek Fisher came back and drained a three-pointer, Rose came back and with an artful step back 12 footer, put the Bulls up by five, with 25 seconds left, essentially sealing the game. He went mano a mano with Kobe Bryant and won.
In fact, after he made that last 12 footer, he started back toward the bench, then he looked in Kobe's direction as if to say, "about that torch..."
How many NBA Championships are in Derrick Rose's future?
Before the game Jackson, speaking of Rose, said, "The ones (best players) that know how to win seem to perpetually find a way to win and help teams win. Derrick has that character about him.”
I think it's safe to say that Jackson has been around some players that know how to win. In fact, you could say he's been coaching the "torch bearer" for the last 20 years.
On one particular play Derrick hit a jumper that was just inside the three-point line where he changed direction in midair, and from the corner, drained a shot with a defender in his face in a shot that even though he was inside the three-point line, should have been awarded a third point on sheer degree of difficulty.
The fact that he did right in front of the Lakers bench made it even more impressive.
As the camera passed over Jackson, you could see his eyes following Rose, as though contemplating how he might be able to come back to Chicago and get another five or six rings.
While Kobe has the torch so long as he's wearing that ring, Derrick Rose sure seemed to accept the challenge to come and take it.
It's not hard to believe after his performance last night that there could be a Kobe-Jordan-like future in front of the game's newest assassin.