The Parallels Of Derrick Rose And Penny Hardaway

By Rosalyn Ross / @R_Trinity

This isn’t the way this was supposed to go.

After having the pleasure of watching Derrick Rose lead my hometown Memphis Tigers to the NCAA basketball promised land. After cheering him on that magical single season, I was supposed to be able to watch him dominate the NBA for years to come.

At first, it appeared that all was going to go according to plan. He went number one in the draft to the Chicago Bulls and won Rookie of the Year. First of three straight All-Star appearances in his sophomore season. Became MVP and led the Bulls to the East's #1 seed in the playoffs in his third year in the league.

Even though he’s from Chicago, Memphians have always claimed Rose as one of our own. Heck, he even wears number one on his jersey which for him is probably just an affirmation of his place in the draft or of his confidence in his God-given ability. But for us, it’s a subtle nod to the last, great, once in a lifetime talent, superstar point guard to be drafted from the University of Memphis.

What wasn’t in the plan, however, was Rose's struggle with knee injuries that is every bit the reminder of Penny Hardaway as that number.

Making matters worse is this recent interview (see below video) that Bill Simmons did with Hardaway during NBA All-Star weekend. Right about the 21-minute mark, Hardaway talks about how unfortunate it is to see Rose battle injury after seeing him up close in college and subsequently, tear through the league his first two seasons.

Three minutes earlier, he talks about his first injury. It was to his knee, a torn meniscus that left an impression of pain on him he’ll never forget. An injury after which he says his knee never felt the same.

I watched that video for this first time a few hours before the news broke of Rose’s meniscus tear, the second to his right knee in as many years after a torn ACL in the left.

In hindsight, the whole thing feels like an incredibly sad premonition. To watch Hardaway talk about how his career succumbed to injury is poignant. I’m sure he’s made peace with what could have been but, I can’t imagine how overwhelming it was back then for him to have to process such an immediate shift in outlook and promise.

Right now, unfortunately, Rose is doing the same.

Even without being the best player on the Bulls this season, we all had reason to believe that things were taking a turn in his favor. Or at the very least, having missed nearly 200 games in four seasons, we figured the guy deserved a good break.

Instead we are, once again, wondering what the future will hold for Rose and what his team will be able to accomplish in his absence.

There’s a cold, hard math to a lengthy, successful career in the NBA. Two, surgically repaired knees don’t often fit into the equation.

For what it’s worth, Hardaway believes Rose could return to form in the next couple of years. “I think he’s young enough to recover from it,” he told Simmons.

Although he made that statement before this newest injury, I’m holding on tight to that prediction. After all, if anyone’s in a position to calculate the probability of Rose’s comeback it’s Penny Hardaway.

And that’s an unlucky position in which to be.

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