Derrick Rose is already on the short list of modern-day Chicago icons, and unlike Michael Jordan or Barack Obama, he is a native of the city. That born-and-bred connection is an added layer to the plot as he attempts to lead the Bulls to their first post-Jordan championship.
Perhaps because he understands the rhythm and sensibility of the city, Rose doesn't back away from Jordan comparisons.
In a GQ profile, Rose shows that he is self-aware of being cast as Jordan's heir.
"I've run into him a couple of times, but we don't have a relationship," he says. "His titles drive me. I'm not scared of him; if anything, it makes me work harder when I do train."
That's the easy part, the basketball part. But outside the arena, Rose admits being uncomfortable playing the role.
GQ points out that Rose is careful in choosing his words when he says, "Sometimes it's too much. Chicago ...
"Chicago isn't used to stardom. Back when Michael was here, everyone was used to actors and singers and people being at the games. But there's been a drought since then, and even celebrities, they'll stop here to film a movie and then pop right back out. They don't know how to act toward celebrity. So I always have someone with me. I can have a hat on, glasses on, whatever. People still notice me. If I go outside without a hat on, I feel like I'm naked.
"This life doesn't fit my personality."
The other role for Rose that GQ explores is the one in which he is set up not just as LeBron James' biggest rival but also the anti-LeBron in public perception.
But until he dumped mud on himself with The Decision, LeBron was following the same road Rose is traveling now. The Next Big Thing. The Next Jordan. The hometown kid playing for the local team.
If LeBron was humbled by the reaction to the way he orchestrated his exit from Cleveland, Rose was paying attention as well.
"I won't ever put myself in a bad position so that people can say bad things about me," Rose tells GQ. "I make smart decisions, and my friends and my family, they are all there for the right reason. I'm very mature for 23 years old, and I know that whatever I do can hurt someone."
Another big learning experience for Rose in the past year was how to work a crowd, and it came courtesy of Obama. Rose was invited to introduce the president at a fund-raiser, and the public-speaking gig had him sweating profusely. "But I got it done, and it helped me being more vocal, too, by doing that," he says.
-- For the complete story on Derrick Rose, go to GQ.com.
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