A unique case for the Hall of Fame: Derrick Rose

Minnesota Timberwolves Derrick Rose (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Minnesota Timberwolves Derrick Rose (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Making a unique case for Derrick Rose being worthy of entering the Basketball Hall of Fame

Derrick Rose’s career arc is one of the sadder storylines in the NBA over the past 10 years. Not many players in NBA history have had such a meteoric rise followed by such a similarly swift decline.

Following a stellar year in college at the University of Memphis, he was selected first overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. After his first few years as a pro, he appeared to be well on his way to living up to this draft pedigree after making three All-Star teams, including in the 2010-11 NBA season, when he led the Chicago Bulls to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and became the youngest player ever to win the NBA MVP award.

However, in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, following his third All-Star campaign, he tore his ACL. He missed the entirety of the following season, returned in the 2013-14 season, and promptly tore his meniscus after a mere 10 games.

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Rose has been unable to return to his pre-2012 level of explosiveness and athleticism since suffering those back-to-back major knee injuries. He has not averaged more than 18 points per game since that 2011-12 season, and he has only twice exceeded 51 games played in a season since his 2010-11 MVP year.

This disappointing, Icarian career has created one of the more fascinating Hall of Fame cases of any active NBA player. Some view him as a lock to make it; some view him as a severe longshot, barring a miraculous late-career renaissance. The reality is likely a much murkier medium between the two.

The case in favor of Rose’s eventual induction is a relatively simple one: no NBA MVP has ever NOT made the Basketball Hall of Fame. The case against his induction is likewise a simple one: no NBA MVP has ever had as mediocre of a career outside of that one MVP season as Derrick Rose has had.

The most oft-cited comparison for Rose’s career is Bill Walton, who, similarly, had a brief stint of greatness including an MVP season, followed by a series of injuries that sapped him of much of the mobility and explosiveness that made him such an otherworldly force in his prime.

Walton, however, has two major components of his career that Derrick Rose just does not have. He had one of the best collegiate careers that anyone has ever had (3-time Player of the Year, 2-time NCAA Champion, and two-time Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four), and he won an NBA championship and a Finals MVP with Portland.

These differences make equating their careers a rather shaky proposition. Perhaps the more apt comparison (and thus, the more convincing argument in favor of Rose’s induction into the Hall of Fame) is Bernard King.

King never won an MVP, but he had a similarly high peak, followed by a similarly low valley. King had a tremendous stretch from 1982-85 in which he made three All-NBA Teams (2 First-Team, 1 Second-Team), culminating in a 1984-85 season during which he won the NBA scoring title with a scoring average of 32.9 points per game.

He then proceeded to play in six total games across the next two seasons. He did, however, have a brief career resurgence in the 1990-91 season when he was named an All-Star and given a spot on the All-NBA Third Team.

That late-career throwback season is perhaps the main differentiating factor between Bernard King’s career and Derrick Rose’s career to this point. For what it’s worth, Bill Walton also had a post-prime, high-impact season late in his career when he was named Sixth Man of the Year and won a championship as a Boston Celtic in the 1985-86 season.

There are a variety of ways in which this type of revival can take shape for Rose as he begins to move into his 30s and into the late stages of his career. Making another All-Star team would go a long way, as would winning a championship, even just as a contributor off the bench.

Winning a Sixth Man of the Year award is another perhaps more realistic option that would provide a solid boost to his resume as well. It’s possible that even having a Vince Carter-esque finish to his career and playing well into his late 30s or early 40s would suffice.

The book on Derrick Rose’s career is far from complete. It’s yet to be seen if he can add to his Hall of Fame case in any of the ways listed above, and it’s not clear if he’ll ever need to accomplish anything else in order to reach the Hall of Fame.

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He has a very solid case to be there given his career achievements to this point, but as we’ve seen with Bernard King’s career and eventual enshrinement, having a reawakening late in his career to remind everyone why he was such a dominant force, to begin with can go a long way toward bolstering the Hall of Fame chances of someone with a career as extraordinary yet ephemeral as Derrick Rose’s.