When Stan Van Gundy suggested that Derrick Rose would be the next superstar to bolt town, Chicago was ready to hit the panic button.
When Rose broke down in tears at the unveiling of his new adidas shoes, he indirectly answered those charges with nine simple words.
“With all this stuff that’s going on in this city. A kid from Englewood has something positive going on.”
Nine words couldn’t have meant more, especially when conveyed through such heartfelt tears.
To understand what it means when he says, “with all the stuff that’s going on,” you have to understand what’s going on there right now. This summer has been a killing season, as 171 were killed in Chicago since June 1, including a city-record 57 in the month of August alone.
And, in the wake of that, the sole refuge from the violence, school, has been taken away as the public teachers have gone on strike.
ESPNChicago reports that Rose tweeted his feelings about that on September 11:
“I’m sitting here just thinking how sad it is that my city got to go through this. I love my city and everyone in it even my haters!” Rose tweeted.
He followed with: “I don’t like that fact that OUR kids are not in school and that’s the only thing we have to SAVE these kids.”
He continued with: “I pray everyday for US for real. I know I shouldn’t be saying this because I hoop and it’s not my lane but I feel like ppl should hear this,” before signing off with “Chi town til I die!”
When he says, “with all the stuff going on,” there’s a lot of stuff going on. And it’s not far from home for him, in fact, it’s at the heart of his home of Englewood.
There is poor, and then there’s Englewood. Based on the city of Chicago’s own report, the neighborhood might be the poorest in the city.
From 2000-2008, average household income in Englewood increased by 20%, as compared to the overall Chicago population’s increase of 32%. In fact, with a current household income of $36,422, the average Englewood household earns only 50% of that earned in Chicago. Currently, 52% of households in Englewood have an income less than $25,000, versus only 25% of households in the city of Chicago
This disparity is expected to continue over the next five years and is reflected in Englewood’s poverty rate of 44%, which is substantially higher than the overall Chicago poverty rate of 20%. The percentage of households in Englewood with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000, and $50,000 and $75,000 remained relatively flat between 2000 and 2008, with current percentages at 26% and 11%, respectively. The percentage of Englewood households with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000, and over $100,000 is currently 6.9% and 4%, respectively, versus 16.8% and 16.2% in the city. Substantial gains in these higher income levels are not projected in the near future.
Englewood is not only poor, it’s dangerous. In fact, according to a recent report by ABC News, it is not just one of the most dangerous areas in the city of Chicago, it contains the single-most dangerous neighborhood in the entire country. One of every four residents is a victim of violent crime annually.
Since 2007, the district, which has a population of just over 38,000 has seen 116 of its citizens murdered according to Redeye, a website which tracks all Chicago murders.
This is the world that Derrick Rose grew up in and experienced every day of his youth. Noah Isackson of Chicago Magazine wrote after Rose was drafted about his growing up:
All around him, though, people were dying. When Rose was a fifth grader living on 73rd and Paulina, his next-door neighbor, a teenager, got drunk and killed himself playing Russian roulette. A close neighborhood friend of Rose’s was killed a few weeks before he was supposed to leave for college.
Isackson reveals Rose discussing how he dealt with these kinds of issues,
Every day in Englewood, Rose says, he saw or heard some element of a crime. “When I was younger, I used to cry about how rough it was,” he recalls. “I just wanted to be old enough to get me and my family out of there.”
And here’s the thing. He did.
Rose’s name is usually associated with the noun—the flower. It should be associated with verb though, because that’s what he did.
He rose out of the squalor which swallows hopes and dreams.
He rose out of the violence which killed his neighbor, and others he knew.
He rose above the crime, which recourse is the only some see, including his own brother, Allan.
He rose out of his errors in the wake of the SAT scandal.
He rose all the way to the NBA MVP award.
And now, he promises, he will rise again from his injury.
So when Rose was sitting, weeping, trying to regain his composure there was a complexity of emotion going on there.
There was the actual pain and suffering of simply going through the process of recovery but that was hardly the predominant factor.
It was the totality of where he had come from, where he was and absorbing it all. How did this “kid from Englewood,” where it’s supposed to be impossible to get out, manage to get here, where he’s releasing a new line of shoes—and getting paid a $260 million to do it?
How did this “kid from Englewood” end up with a $95 million NBA contract?
Why does this “kid from Englewood” deserve to have fans which are so supportive?
This is no LeBron James, born in a nearby town but adopted by a city which he never truly adopted in return.
This is no Dwight Howard, a hired mercenary who embraced a city while it served his purposes.
This is no Carmelo Anthony, who always had his heart set on playing at home but had the misfortune of being drafted by another team.
This is Derrick Rose, a “kid from Englewood” who, according to his own website, grew up wanting to play for the Chicago Bulls.
I grew up watching them and cheering for them. The Bulls have always been my favorite team so it’s a dream come true to be able to put on the jersey and play for the people of Chicago.
When Rose adds, “I’m just happy I have true fans out there,” he reveals why he’ll never leave.
Lawrence Norman, vice president of global basketball for Adidas, responded perfectly when he told Rose, “You do, and this is one of the reasons why.”
When he’s playing, he’s not just playing for a contract. He’s not playing for his place in history, like Dwight Howard. He’s just playing for rings, like LeBron James. He’s not playing for celebrity, like Carmelo Anthony.
He’s playing for Chicago.
He’s playing for Englewood.