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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
A year ago, Derrick Rose owned Chicago.
Billboards, TV spots, kids wearing Bulls’ No. 1 jerseys — everyone and everything celebrated the high school hero who came home and made the dynasty that Michael Jordan built feel relevant again.
The NBA postseason was just gathering steam and you couldn’t go three blocks or step into a restaurant without being reminded of it.
Then, with just 90 seconds left in the opening game of the Bulls’ playoff series against the 76ers, Rose put a foot down awkwardly, tore his ACL and for the most part, just disappeared.
A year later, his presence is notable, if at all, at the center of a whispering campaign: “If doctors cleared him a month ago, why isn’t he playing?”
No one seems to know how to answer that, least of all, Rose himself.
His coach, Tom Thibodeau, was asked the question right after the All-Star break, and nearly every day afterward, and eventually ran out of ways to say, “I have no idea.” Rose hasn’t been any help, looking fit in full scrimmages of late and suggesting the only part of his body still to be convinced of a return was between his ears.
Two months ago, he declared himself in the “high 80s” on the way to being 100 percent healthy. Last month, Rose said his return “could be tomorrow,” and then mysteriously tacked on this at the end of his answer: “Nobody knows but God.”
If there’s going to be divine intervention — let alone some suspense — any time during this NBA postseason, it better come soon. After LeBron James’ regular-season-for-the-ages performance, it’s hard to see any team capable of dethroning the Miami Heat, except perhaps a squad made up of the stars likely to spend the rest of the playoffs on the bench.
Besides Rose, there’s Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, nursing a torn Achilles tendon and mad-tweeting coaching instructions to his teammates in real time; Amar’e Stoudamire in New York; Danilo Gallinari in Denver; Danny Granger in Indiana; and David Lee at Golden State, who tore his hip flexor in the Warriors’ opening-round loss at Denver.
Bryant caught some flak for his Sunday afternoon quarterbacking via Twitter, though after San Antonio rolled his Lakers 91-79 in Game 1, the most charitable thing coach Mike D’Antoni could say about the running commentary was, “He gets excited. He wants to be part of it.” And unlike Rose, no one in the LA market doubts Bryant wants back in; even after he ruptured the tendon in a game two weeks ago, he still managed to hobble to the line to take his free throws.
In New York, Stoudamire’s absence has been cushioned by the Knicks’ late surge, the emergence of J.R. Smith as the NBA’s best sixth man and the chance Stoudamire could return for the next round. The chance that for once there will even be a next round — after disposing of the hated Boston Celtics, no less — is enough to keep restless Knicks’ fans from piling on Stoudamire.
The same is mostly true in other places where stars have been waylaid by injury — save for Chicago. In a workingman’s town, with the Bulls blown out in Brooklyn in Game 1 and teammate Joakim Noah playing hurt as Game 2 tips off Monday night, Rose is being called a slacker and worse.
A sampling of tweets:
“Want to minimize risk? Retire.”
“(at)drose needs to give his leg to Kobe if he’s not gonna use it”
“At this rate, (at)drose’s baby PJ will probably play basketball before his dad.”
It hasn’t helped Rose’s case that the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson returned from a similarly devastating ACL injury the previous December and had one of the best seasons ever by a running back. Or that the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert has worked his way back into the lineup as a solid contributor after suffering a similar injury at roughly the same time.
Worse, some of the same qualities that endeared Rose to his hometown — toughness, humility and the kind of quiet leadership that inspired teammates to play hard all the time — are working against him now. No matter how honestly he tries to assess things — “…I’m only 24 years old, I’ve got the whole future in front of me.” — the words wind up being thrown back in his face. In what can only be called the most deranged reaction, a fan in Peoria reportedly filed a lawsuit claiming that Rose’s absence caused him to suffer emotional distress and eat his way to obesity.
Shame on all of them
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)