News came a couple of months ago that 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls would visit Manila for the second time (the first was on a team with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Derek Fisher, Tyreke Evans, Javale McGee, James Harden, and Derrick Williams during the NBA lockout in 2011, to play versus some PBA All-Stars and the earlier version of Gilas Pilipinas), this time by himself, as an endorser of Adidas. On his schedule were attendance at a 3-on-3 tournament, a press conference, and an NBA 2K13 Tournament. But, prior to all those commitments, a number of fortunate souls from different media outfits were each granted a five-minute interview with Rose at the Marriott Hotel, a list which included me and many of my friends in sports news.
After waiting for about forty minutes, at a little past 11:00 a.m. on 15 September 2013, I, together with video producer BJ Ramos and photographer Czeasar Dancel, were called into the room to meet Derrick, who is accompanied here by his agent, former Bulls guard BJ Armstrong, also a multiple-time Manila visitor. What immediately caught my attention was that he was taller than I thought he would be, and he brandished a big smile, which was something I did not see when he was here in 2011. Since time was of the essence, I quickly introduced myself and we sat down for our Q&A.
I asked him first about what his memories were of his 2011 visit to the Philippines. Derrick seemed quite shy and soft-spoken, as he related how he and his companions were here to play some local stars, but that the games, at the start, did not feel at all like exhibitions. He said their opponents played hard, played seriously and intensely, and it was only nearing the end of the games that the visitors felt an exhibition-like atmosphere. He felt the passion of the Filipinos for the game of basketball and appreciated the energy in the venue of everyone there, including the announcer. On his chance to return here, he looked forward to experiencing again the warmth and the excitement of the fans.
I mentioned to him that during his first visit, he struck Filipinos as being too serious. I asked him what kind of relationship he really has with his fans and supporters and he felt confident that he has a very good relationship with his fans, to whom he is very open, and with whom he exerts effort to interact and not make it hard for them to get close to him. He said that he would not have the kind of fan base he has without allowing them to see as much of his life and getting to know him as much as possible. He says his fans know what type of person he is, that he just leads “a regular life”, and that they appreciate his family-first attitude.
In 2010, Derrick played on the FIBA World Championship gold-medal USA squad. I asked him about that experience and how he felt when, after the team was initially belittled, they eventually came out on top. He said it was a great experience and since Bryant and other superstars were not included in the lineup, those who were on the team felt they had a chip on their shoulders and needed to prove everyone wrong. He noted the effect on the players on that team after winning the medal, as most of them played well in the next NBA season, with the Worlds seemingly “jumpstarting” everyone’s careers.
Throughout his career, Rose has worn different jersey numbers. #25 in high school, #23 in college, and now #1 in the pros. He explained that his high school jersey number was because he followed the best player around at the time who wore #25 in honor of Ben Wilson, a Chicago-area player considered the best in the country in 1984, who was shot and killed. The #23, said the Chicago native, was because of Michael Jordan and the need to “represent” your hometown in college. His #1 now in the NBA was actually the number he used when he played as a point guard in youth basketball, but he chose the number for the pros because he reverted to point guard after playing small forward in high school, and was aggressive, wanting to be ahead of the rest.
I asked Derrick who or what drives him in his career and who he considers as his mentor. He said that he drives himself, pushes himself to work hard, but considers Armstrong, his manager, as his mentor. He has learned a lot from Armstrong by “picking his mind” everyday. He acknowledges the great success his manager has had (3 championship rings with the Bulls, one All-Star appearance) and admits that just being around BJ everyday has made him grow and mature so much.
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There’s just never enough time! The lady in charge of ensuring that interviews were kept within the five-minute time limit, my friend Leah Caringal, had already raised a paper that read “ONE MINUTE LEFT’ some time before, so I threw a simple parting question to Derrick about what we all should expect from him and the Bulls this coming season. “A great year”, he said. As for the fans who have been waiting for a long time for more Bulls’ success, Derrick said, “I’m going to try my hardest to not let ‘em down.”
I thanked Derrick for his time, we posed for some pictures, and he gamely autographed a trading card I presented to him. I am convinced that the former MVP is determined to bounce back this coming season and show everyone that he is ready to thrill the fans and show the rest of the league that he is back. I could see it in his eyes, his focus, and his cool demeanor. I wished him success. Before our crew filed out of the room, I walked over to shake BJ Armstrong’s hand. Derrick, just as most NBA stars that come over, had a hectic schedule after the one-on-one interviews. I heard he had a great time and that the fans enjoyed. I’m eager to see how he does in the coming NBA season. Miami needs a little more competition in the East.
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