Plagued by knee injuries, 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose has played a combined 49 games in the past three seasons. But Rose’s return to health just as the Miami Heat’s Big Three era ends seems to bode well for his 2014-15 Chicago Bulls’ championship hopes.
ESPN The Magazine’s NBA Preview cover story – now available on ESPN.com – explores how much one player can shift the league’s balance of power. The Mag’s senior writer Wright Thompson, along with deputy editors Otto Strong, Ty Wenger and associate editor Ross Marrinson, provide insight on the making of this highly anticipated story. The NBA Preview Issue hits newsstands Friday.
Why was Rose was selected for the cover and how did it happen?
OS/TW/RM: Even though LeBron James has returned to Cleveland and the Cavaliers made a major acquisition in Kevin Love, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is by far the biggest X factor this season. He’s a former MVP. The Bulls are a championship caliber squad. How his body [has recovered from injury] will likely determine how far they’ll go in the playoffs.
The [cover story] concept began with Rose’s agent this spring and after a few conversations we agreed to wait until Rose and the rest of Team USA returned from their gold-medal performance in the FIBA World Championships in Spain. Receiving this kind of access to someone who has revealed very little to the world during the last three years, as he’s attempted to recover from his injuries, is something we’re very proud to share.
How would you describe your overall interaction with Rose?
Thompson: Our time together took a lot of back and forth to arrange with his people, but once in front of him he was thoughtful, funny, humble and self-aware. The thing that sticks with me most – that didn’t make the story – was the effect his smile had on his face. Because when he’s looking stern, say, for a magazine photographer, he seems like a former NBA MVP. But when he laughs, there’s a little gap next to his front two teeth, and the combination of the gap and his laughing make him seem much, much younger. That seems like the Derrick his family knows.