There were two moments late in Game 4 when you had to stop whatever it was you were doing, scoot up on the couch and keep your eyes as wide as possible in fear that one split-second blink would ruin your chance at seeing history.
The 6’3’’, 190 lb Derrick Rose stood at the top of the key, ball in hand, staring across at the 6’8’’, 250 lb LeBron James. The two-time MVP was ready to lock down the man who had stolen away his third trophy, while the young Rose was looking to prove once and for all why he didn’t need James’ assistance in Chicago.
The first trip resulted in a step-back jumper. When the shot went into the air, half of me thought this was going to be Rose’s Jordan-esque moment with LeBron playing the role of Bryon Russell or Craig Eloh, while the other half of me wondered why Rose didn’t try to get to the rim.
The ball clanked off the rim and it seemed like Miami would come down, put the ball in LeBron’s hands, inevitably winning the game with one of their three offensive weapons.
Instead, offensive foul on LeBron James.
So here it was again. Rose with the ball, James guarding him. This time the result was even worse. Rose did another step-back, but missed the rim entirely.
Seeing these two MVPs literally go up against each other made me wonder if the 22-year-old Rose is actually that far ahead of the 22-year-old LeBron in terms of personal and playoff success.
Here’s what we know. The youngest superstar in the NBA, Derrick Rose, finds himself in a 3-1 hole.
At this point, being down two games, it seems very unrealistic that Rose can lead his team to three straight victories. He may be able to push a Game 6, but the way the Miami Heat have been playing—not just in this individual series, but throughout the entire playoffs—makes the likelihood of a collapse nearly impossible.
The talk has been all about how these painful defeats are “lumps” and “growing pains” that the young MVP must go through. After all, Rose could still be a senior in college.
If the rule had not switched to force players to play at least one year of college or international basketball before entering the NBA Draft, Derrick Rose would have also been a straight out of high school player, like LeBron James.
In James’ first year in the NBA, he was named rookie of the year averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. In his one year of College Basketball, Derrick Rose led the Memphis Tigers to a phenomenal 38-2 mark, nearly winning the National Championship. James was selected first in the draft, so was Rose. Both were named Rookie of the Year in their first NBA season.
From here on out, I’m going to compare LeBron’s sophomore NBA season to Rose’s rookie year, LeBron’s third year to Rose’s second year, etc. thus comparing them by age since the NBA rookie rule slightly messes things up.
LeBron and Rose, both at age 19/20, led their teams to average records. LeBron led the Cavaliers to a 42-40 mark and Rose took the Bulls to 41-41.
For the Cavaliers, the 42 wins finished in ninth place behind the identical record New Jersey Nets. For the Bulls, the .500 record gave them the No. 7 seed and a matchup with the Boston Celtics.
Although the Bulls pushed the Boston Celtics seven games and delivered an all time classic series in their defeat, it needs to be remembered that Kevin Garnett was injured. Imagine if LeBron had landed the No. 7 seed in 2004 and went up against the No. 2 seeded Detroit Pistons, without Ben Wallace. Is there any doubt that could have been a classic too?
At age 20/21, Rose took the Bulls to the playoffs again, but this time, lost quickly to LeBron James’ Cavaliers in only five games. LeBron at 20/21 took the Cavaliers to the second round and pushed the defending champion Pistons to seven games.
In the playoffs, James averaged 30.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 5.8 apg. Rose was at 26.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 7.8 apg.
For Rose, his third season (this current year) resulted in an MVP, something LeBron didn't reach as early, and the No. 1 overall seed, another feat he accomplished faster than LeBron. Rose led his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, but is now in a familiar 3-1 hole to LeBron.
Believe it or not, James at the similar age of 22 went further (as of now) than Derrick Rose.
Leading his team to a No. 2 seed, the 22-year-old James went to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. Like Rose, he fell down two games (0-2), but led his Cavaliers to four straight wins, including a resounding Game 5 victory—on the road—where he scored 48 points, 29 of his team’s last 30 points and the final 25 total points for Cleveland. James would go on to be swept in the NBA Finals.
To keep pace with LeBron, Rose has to lead his team all the way back to win this series. He almost did last night, but instead finds himself down two games, just like LeBron did against the Pistons.
Rose needs a legendary Game 5 performance. He needs the same type of 40 plus points, putting the offense on his back for an entire fourth quarter, display that LeBron did—at the same age—in Detroit.
It may seem difficult for a 22-year-old Rose to win three games in a row against a championship caliber, insanely aggressive, defensive team, but don’t tell that to LeBron. He’s already done it before.
At the same exact age.