Words by Alan Cerenil (@snobworthy)
Derrick Rose vs. LeBron James: Examining The NBA’s Next Best Rivalry
A few weeks ago after a game against the Sacramento Kings, Kobe Bryant stated, “I didn’t have one…. I get up for everybody just the same, to be honest. It’s hard for me to turn my meter up any higher than it normally is.” The statement was regarding his on-court relationship with Lebron James and if he had a rival in the game. He didn’t characterize the relationship as a rivalry. My first thought on his statement was Kobe is wrong. Of course Lebron James is his rival. They’ve been compared to each other and they’ve been the best players in the league for many years now. Anybody remember Young Jeezy’s anthemic “24, 23″? Then the more I thought about what Kobe said, I started to see where he was coming from.
The NBA’s best rivalries are fought on the court over championships and rings. It’s proven in May and June after the attrition of a long NBA season. Kobe hasn’t met Lebron in the playoffs and it’s looking less likely that it will happen anytime soon. Kobe will be 34 and playing in his sixteenth NBA season next year. The NBA’s elite are judged on one thing and one thing only and it’s rings. So far Kobe has 5 rings and Lebron has zero. Nada, the same amount as you and me.
Since its apparent that Kobe doesn’t have a rival and he’s a few seasons away from retirement (or is he? Will he go to Germany every summer for me surgeries?). For me it’s clear the next great NBA rivalry is Derrick Rose and Lebron James. As I wrote last month it’s very likely the Bulls and the Heat will meet in the again the playoffs and thus Rose and Lebron will meet again with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. They might meet in the playoffs every year for the next five years. Bulls/Heat will become this generation’s Bulls/Knicks of the 90′s or Bulls/Pistons of the late 80′s. Destined to crash into each other every year in the playoffs.
Rose and Lebron couldn’t be two different people despite being similar athletically gifted players.
Derrick is beloved for his humble nature. He’s always deferring to his other teammates and taking the blame for when the team loses. Much like another egoless superstar Kevin Durant, his no ego approach is refreshing to fans and media members. There’s not much to like about his personality. Well a certain radio personality from Miami did have some harsh words for Derrick Rose for not dancing and smiling during the NBA All-Star introductions. John “Stugotz” Weiner of 790 The Ticket in Miami said of Rose,”Here’s the really annoying thing,” Weiner said. “You don’t want to dance? You don’t want to smile? That’s fine. That’s your prerogative. But don’t call out LeBron and Dwight (Howard) for doing so. Who the hell is Derrick Rose?”
He does everything that is expected of him and plays his heart out every game. Also he’s the NBA’s youngest MVP. That’s who he is.
Lebron on the other hand, he reminds so much of Vinnie Chase, the fictional character in the hit HBO show Entourage. Much like the superstar Hollywood actor on the show, Lebron James is a diva. A very insecure complex diva. A great athlete being a diva is nothing new, but I think Lebron is on another level. He calls himself the King. He’s been marketed as the second coming — the chosen one since he’s come into the league. The bike that he rides to American Airlines Arena has King James on it. Just like Vinnie Chase, he surrounds himself with yes men that hardly challenge him.
Walter Looss Jr. a photographer had this interesting story from a few years ago on his Lebron’s entourage and diva ways. Looss Jr, says: ” I’ve seen a lot of entourages, but none like his. In July 2010 I got an assignment from Nike to shoot LeBron right after his TV special announcing his move to the Heat. We rented the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where the Lakers and the Clippers used to play, and there were 53 people on my crew — including hair and makeup artists, production people, a stylist. I had $10,000 in Hollywood lighting. It was huge. When LeBron arrived, it was as if Nelson Mandela had come in. Six or seven blacked-out Escalades pulled up, a convoy. LeBron had bodyguards and his masseuse. His deejay was already there, blasting. This for a photo shoot that was going to last an hour, tops.
This is how crazy it was: I wasn’t even allowed to talk directly to LeBron. There was a liaison, someone from Amar’e Stoudemire’s family. I would say to him, “O.K., have LeBron drive right,” and then he’d turn to LeBron and say, “LeBron, go right.”
LeBron had guards in the portals on the mezzanine level, talking into their hands. Really, what was going to happen? And then at the end of the shoot they all got in the Escalades. My God, I’ve been around Michael Jordan, but with him nothing even came close to this. Unimaginable.”
You think Rose will ever do that? I think not.
If you seen the documentary More Than a Game on James and his high school teammates, you start to realize and learn more about James and why he is, who he is. He needs to be loved. He reminds me of one of those kids that always needs to be on the scene — a hype beast to say the least. When he does have something humble and gracious to say or does something that’s nice. I’m never quite sure about his sincerity. Is he only doing it because he actually wants to, or is he doing it because some public relations expert told him so? I don’t know. He seems like a kid to me. A guy that wants to have fun with his boys. Maybe that’s why he went to Miami, or maybe it was to escape the pressure that faced him in his hometown. I would highly suggest reading The Whore of Akron, a book written by Scott Raab for more info on Lebron and his relationship with Cleveland.
It’s very telling that one embraces the challenge of winning for his hometown and the other runs away from it.
Does Lebron being a insecure diva stop him being great on the court? No. Also just because Rose is very humble and gracious it doesn’t make him more likely to win a championship. What we can gather from their personalities and how it contributes to their game is very little because they’re different players on the court.
Rose is more in the mold of Kobe than Lebron is and ever will be. Maybe it’s because he’s had to carry the offense ever since he put on a Bulls uniform, but he’s developed a killer instinct. He wants to finish games. He accepts the responsibility of being the closer. The ball is in his hands at the end of games and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win. He’s improved his game every year since he came into the league. Just take a look at his three-point percentage — it’s gradually improved with each year, thus making defenders weary of backing off of him when he’s around the arc. Also, he’s willing to accept coaching. He accepts criticism of his game and is willing to work on his flaws. He’s learned a lot from coach Tom Thibodeau about improving his defense and awareness on the court. If he never wins a NBA a championship it won’t be because he didn’t max out his ability.
Because of his talent James will always be compared to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but to me he’s a mix of a few players. Although he’s not Micael Jordan he’s still a brilliant player to watch. He has the passing skills of Magic Johnson and the physicality of Karl Malone. He’s so versatile. He’s incredibly efficient and can impact the game in many ways besides scoring. He can play every position on the court if needed. There’s never really been a player like him in the NBA. For how brilliant he is, he’s also very frustrating to watch. Unlike Rose he doesn’t seem to adapt to coaching. He’s had frequent problems with Mike Brown, his former coach in Cleveland and last year there was whispers he wanted Erik Spoelstra gone. His fourth quarter struggles are well documented and I won’t get into it here but I will say this there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be going for his second ring this year. If he stepped up last year in the Finals, all the four quarter talk goes away. Maybe he was hoping Wade or Bosh would take over and win the series? Like I wrote earlier, he’s very complex. It’s always something with him. If he never wins a NBA championship, it will be on him and him only.
During the summer in which Lebron James was a free agent and deciding which team to join there was pressure on Rose to lure James to Chicago. Yahoo sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski pointed this out in one of his article during the summer of 2010, Wojnarowksi writes, “Reach out to him, Chicago management had pleaded with Derrick Rose. LeBron doesn’t think you want him here. That’s what they told the Bulls’ franchise star in July, a request that was met with dutiful respect from Rose. Sure, he told the Bulls. I’ll shoot him a text. Rose is polite this way, honoring obligations and orders from above.”
We know how the story ended. James went to Miami. In the end Rose didn’t beg him to come to Chicago like Wade begged James to come to Miami. He shot him a text and that’s it. There was no grand party thrown by Rose to tell him all about why he should come here. Rose has discussed the recruitment of players several times since that summer and especially with the Dwight Howard situation. He’s uncomfortable with recruiting players. He’s repeatedly said, the city sells itself, who wouldn’t want to play here? He’s right, the city and organization does sell itself. A text from Rose should do enough to suffice but in a age where most superstars in the league are YMCMB-ing (you know what I mean) it may not be enough. It wasn’t for James and for Howard.
The relationship between Rose and James may go even deeper. I remember Brian Windhorst, a reporter who has followed Lebron since his high school days telling a story on a Miami radio station about how James and his agency wanted Rose to join them. Rose chose instead to go with another agency group and he received a shoe deal with Addidas instead of a shoe deal with Nike, who Lebron is with. It’s clear Rose doesn’t bow down to James in anyway. While many other players in the league follow him around like he’s Vinny Chase. Rose simply acknowledges him and keeps it moving.
After the Bulls got bounced by the Heat in the playoffs last year, Derrick spent the next week sulking in his house, not leaving for anything. A few days after the Heat loss in the NBA Finals Lebron was seen leaving a nightclub. Whether that means something or not is up to you. It does mean they’re different people with different approaches to the game. They both have the same goal.
That goal will have them seeing a lot of each other in May. The rivalry between the two will only grow.