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The Ballad Of Ricky-Bobby & Z.W.: What We Learned About Derrick Rose From Will Leitch's GQ Profile

SB Nation Chicago's weekly roundtable -- also know as 'The Ballad Of Ricky-Bobby & Z.W.' -- makes its triumphant return to your computer screens as the trio of writers discuss what they took away from Will Leitch's GQ profile on Derrick Rose.

derrick rose gq 2
derrick rose gq 2


Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):

We all read Will Leitch's fantastic GQ article on Derrick Rose Tuesday. Besides the normal stuff we already knew -- Rose's family being extremely protective, growing up in a bad neighborhood, etc. -- I found myself feeling sorry for Derrick. Rose seems to be a reluctant star who just wants to be left alone. I immediately thought of Brendan Fraser in The Scout. (Such an odd title that, frankly, deflected the spotlight from the real star/conflicted hero and awesomely named, Steve Nebraska.)

Rose also came off as a bit of a dick, ignoring both fans and reporters on two occasions, but I think Leitch did a good job of inferring that Derrick did not mean to be a jag, but rather the MVP has true social anxiety issues, something that we do not see in our athletes, particularly in the NBA with a league seemingly full of extroverts. D-Rose is clearly our city's new hero and a little edge isn't necessarily a bad thing. I guess what I am trying to say, I will probably always give Rose the benefit of the doubt, this time is no different.

What was your take, Ricky?


Ricky O'Donnell (@TUP_Ricky):

Will Leitch is probably one of my five or 10 favorite writers ever, and a real influence on my "career," or whatever. I thought his profile was great, though I'm not sure if it broke any new ground, at least for those of us who have been plugged into Rose since his days at Simeon. I do always think it's great when athletes speak unfiltered, as opposed to the avalanche of cliches we get before and after every game. It's a credit to Leitch's interviewing ability to get Derrick to be so candid. Perhaps we've only assumed that Rose doesn't appreciate the attention, and that getting it down in quote form for a high-profile magazine is actually newsworthy. That's very possible. But yeah: if the most important thing to come from this profile is "Rose doesn't like a ton of attention," that doesn't strike me as particularly revelatory.

The most simplistic personality trait we can accurately assign to Rose is that he's shy. If that seems too vague, or maybe too broad, perhaps it is. I'm glad reading this profile made Zach think of a Brendan Fraser movie, as that's a very Z.W. connection to make, but hearing Rose speak about his social aversions immediately brought Ricky Williams to mind for me. Remember during training camp that one year when Williams would conduct interviews with his helmet on? That was highly bizarre behavior at the time, but you can't help but think Rose would love to hide behind a helmet and a dark visor sometimes. If football players often appear as nameless soldiers in some militant cavalry, NBA players are the exact opposite. Their face is plain for the world to see; their arms, their tattoos; their physical exhaustion is all spelled out. When Rose grimaces, you can feel it in your gut. That level of transparency works to the advantage of someone as outwardly gregarious as Dwight Howard or LeBron James, but Rose simply isn't wired like that.

Another angle I've heard taken from this profile is "death of the unicorn." Rose glares at referees routinely during games now, he rips them afterwards in the locker room; here, he gives quotes that could lead you to believe he's kind of a dick. Of course, the unicorn narrative was false from the get-go, as athletes are undeniably human, and humans are subject to moods and mistakes. What's more interesting to me is Rose's stunted social development, which Leitch hints at.

Rose's family is often lauded for the way they raised him, and the credit is well deserved. Their biggest achievement might just be the fact that he's alive: Ben Wilson, of course, was a similarly prodigious basketball talent at Simeon in the '80s who was murdered just before the start of his senior season. The same ultra-protected upbringing that got him out of Englewood alive could certainly have led to some social warts, though. As Rose grows older and inevitably more independent, it'll be interesting to see how his public persona dovetails. "I just want to we-in" actually strikes me as a genuine thought from him -- after all, what's more basic in life than winning and losing? Being that the spotlight will always be so bright on him for his entire career, though, you can only hide behind that cover for so long. Someone will break it, and it appears like Leitch might be the first one.


Bobby Loesch (@bobbystompy):

I, too, love Will Leitch like an older brother, and my enjoyment of the profile came from a mixture of not only the quotes he got from Rose, but his actual description of Rose's game. Seriously, read this:

Rose’s brilliance is such that slow motion is required to understand what, exactly, is going on up there—the same way you need to change frame rate to comprehend fully how a gun fires a bullet or a hummingbird flaps its wings.

Is it not everything we've ever known?

Another random takeaway from my personal perspective: Rose will never be an NBA analyst. So we can go ahead and pencil him in the MJ camp -- as far as that goes -- right freakin' now.

As far as the "Rose hates attention" thing goes, there are two schools of thought in regards to a typical person's reaction to the claim.

1. If you hate attention so much, why consent to a cover story for GQ?

2. Was his consent yet another example of his begrudging -- but inevitable -- path to stardom?

I think the truth falls somewhere in between. It's likely someone in his camp thought it would be a good idea, though I can't imagine Rose being 100% opposed. That said, it's pretty hard to picture him calling GQ and begging for them to interview him for the story. So yeah, it's grey.

As for as him not talking to random fans, I could never hate on a guy for that. High profile athletes typically have people to see and places to be. It sounds arrogant, but it's true. You never want to snub a fan or say the wrong thing, but if your beef with Rose is he didn't "look" at you, you're probably kind of a dick yourself.

If I was going to nitpick one thing, it would most likely be the whole "I can't go to public places" thing. I get that it's probably tough to go back to the old neighborhood (likely impossible), and I get that he gets attention he doesn't want in the places he does go, but if Jay-Z, Kanye, LeBron and Wade can find clubs, Rose can probably find clubs. Though I imagine his aversion to going out stems more from just wanting to take a step back and get some time to himself once in a while. If this profile taught us anything, it's that he probably needs more days like that. Did you see how much he relished just the 24 hours to stay in? Shit, we get 48 at the end of every week, and we don't have $100+ mil in the bank.

All told, it's a profile very much worth reading. As for where we go from here, I'd like to find out what Derrick's real tone is. Is it the one from the "we-in" commercial? Is it from press conferences? Is it from the Obama intro speech we never got to hear? Or is it somewhere in this story? Ricky's right -- it'll break sometime, but I'd guess later rather than sooner.


Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):

I guess I shouldn't have used the word "dick." That was poor on my end. There are pretty much two types of athletes/celebrities: the ones that relish fame and the ones that don't. We hear about Tim Tebow signing autographs for hours or doing charitable work and, I think, the mainstream media makes that kind of athlete a cultural icon and pinacle of "what athletes should be." D-Rose is just not that kind of person. Dick was the wrong word. I am sorry, Mr. Rose.

Another thought I had after reading both your posts is that Leitch had his own social issues, best exemplified by the exceptional "Life As A Loser" column and later his first book. Maybe that's how Leitch could write about Derrick's issues with accuracy and, more importantly, get Rose to be forthcoming about it, knowing where our MVP was coming from. Perhaps not, but it's something that jumped out at me after some more time thinking about the interview.

It's always nice to get an inside view into the lives of our celebrities. This one gave us small glimpse into the life of our cities favorite son and the potential pitfalls to that fame.