John Elway tormented the Browns. Joe Montana tore out the hearts of Bengals’ fans. Michael Jordan’s name is akin to Voldemort in places like Akron and Salt Lake City. These players, considered to be among the greats in their sports, have a unique place in the games. Not only were they great players, but their greatness was a thorn in the side of a particular city or franchise. Their clutch performances, which cemented their legendary statuses, also came at the expense of other teams. Today, these players welcome a new member: Derrick Rose. Over the past three games of the Bulls first round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers, Derrick Rose has singlehandedly sent the Pacers away losers. This scrappy young Pacers team has played well enough to be leading this series. They’ve all but shut down Carlos Boozer and have gotten steady performances from a variety of players. The one constant which has propelled the Bulls to victory, however, is Derrick Rose. And Pacers fans now hate him.
This is not a club for “one-hit wonders.” Neither Bucky Dent or Bobby Thomson belong. Their gut-wrenching heroics were anomalies. Nor is it a club merely for rival players who get under the skin of the home team (No Ochocincos or Brandon Phillips here). This is an exclusive club populated by great players who made it a habit of thwarting the efforts of one particular city.
In game one against the Bulls, the Pacers had the Bulls down 10 points with a little over three minutes left at the United Center. Basketball writers across the country were already dusting off their David v. Goliath metaphors when Goliath said, “enough.” Derrick Rose took over the game, scoring 7 of his game-high 39 points in the final three minutes and drawing such defensive attention from the Pacers that Kyle Korver took in a movie before launching the game-deciding three pointer. In game two, a similar result. Pacers contain the rest of the Bulls and hold a late lead. Enter Derrick Rose. Last night in Conseco Fieldhouse, Rose was off. The Pacers had trapped him, forcing him to give up the ball. They had harried him defensively with multiple players into a 3-17 shooting night from the field. Yet with the game tied under 30 seconds, somehow Derrick F. Rose (middle initial has now been added by Pacers fans) wound his way down the line eluding 4 of 5 possible Pacer defenders and banked in a layup WITH HIS LEFT HAND! On the other end, mere mortals like Darren Collison and Danny Granger could only manage forced jumpers and the Bulls were up 3-0.
There’s still at least one more game to go this season between these two teams. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of this monster hell-bent on destroying the hopes and dreams of the population of Central Indiana. What’s more, Rose is only in his third season and the Bulls and Pacers are division rivals. The Pacers are young and talented as well. All indications is this series is the first of many meaningful matchups between these two teams. How many more daggers will Derrick F. Rose stick in the hearts of Pacers fans?
I’d advise Larry Bird and the Pacers brass to look for one player in the upcoming draft: someone with the middle initial “F.”