Long before my amazing father died in November 2009, one recurring complaint had caused his fandom to wane: that out-of-touch athletes were too self-consumed to care enough about the things that mattered most.
The golden era that he grew up in was gone, and the modern-day stars of the 1980s and early '90s were -- as he saw it -- more concerned with the money and fame than they were the games. So he pulled back from those San Francisco Bay Area teams that once captured his attention, his loyalties never to return.
It's a familiar refrain among today's consuming public, too, this idea that the pedestal on which players are put doesn't allow them to connect with the very people who help make their enormous paychecks possible. Which is why it's worth slowing down to highlight what Bulls point guard Derrick Rose did in Chicago last week.
At an event to launch his Adidas shoe and clothing line, the former MVP showed the kind of humanity and humility that even the most disenchanted of sports fans would have to find endearing. Rose, who isn't expected to return from his May 12 ACL surgery until late this season,
The Chicago native spoke of his appreciation for
"My initial reaction was that this was one of the greatest displays of human emotion that I've seen, because it was real, it was authentic and that's who he really is," said B.J. Armstrong, Rose's agent and a former Bulls point guard. "It wasn't in the script. What he was able to express, and what you were able to see, everyone has had that moment of, 'I don't know how I got here.' Everyone can relate to that.
"I was like, 'Wow, that's pretty cool for the fans. That's pretty cool for people, because it's a reminder that people are human.' We get caught up in all these figures and saying, 'He's the greatest this or that,' but you know what? He's a kid who's just human.
"I'm sure we all have experienced it in the privacy of our own homes, in the privacy of places where millions of people don't get a chance to see it. I'm just very thankful that he shared that moment with us."
Rose, who was raised by his mother, Brenda, and three older brothers and attended the public Simeon Career Academy on the South Side, had to be thrilled to hear that hundreds of thousands of students
"He knows the problems in Chicago, through and through," Armstrong said of Rose. "He grew up in the public school system, grew up as one of those kids. He is Chicago, and he understands the city, understands the culture, understands the problems, understands the beauty of this place. He gets it.
"He'll come back [from his injury]. Life goes on, so he's able to put it in its proper perspective and realize that there are things out there besides himself. It's an amazing quality that he has at a young age."
This is hardly the first time Rose has shown his human side. There was the
When the NBA lockout was finally lifted last December, anyone who spent all those months
But here we are almost 10 months later, and the two men at the helm of the National Basketball Players Association are still embroiled in a bitter battle that began during the six-month work stoppage. To review, there was the aggressive attempt of Hunter and his backers to
Fisher (a current
According to a memo obtained by SI.com, the "Summer Meeting" was initially scheduled as an in-person affair at a hotel at Chicago's O'Hare airport. A follow-up memo was sent indicating that a conference call was preferable to most players and it detailed a fairly innocuous to-do list for the session.
"We will provide an update of current union business and cover matters including the distribution of 2011-12 group license funds, implementation of the new annuity program, and proposed rules changes from the competition committee," the memo read.
While Fisher has two seasons left in his term as NBPA president, Hunter, who earns $2.6 million annually as the executive director, has a contract that runs through 2016. The lack of answers about what lies ahead for the two union heads is sure to frustrate players like Phoenix forward Jared Dudley who aren't sure what to make of the saga.
"A lot of players don't have the information, like 'What's going on?' " Dudley, the Suns' team representative, told SI.com recently. "Derek Fisher wanted an audit. He wanted to know what's going on with the money and all of that. From the inside -- and I'm on the inside with the players -- it sounds fishy after the lockout that you want our president to leave, a president who's auditing the head chairman.
"So that right there smells wrong. I'm not up to speed 100 percent with what went on. And the reason that I'm not 100 percent up to speed is because I feel like there's been no information [given out]. I think that's a plan for the NBPA and how they want to handle it internally, and that's fine."
Where to start with the league's most talked-about team. Well, for starters, the company that owns the Staples Center and 30 percent of the Lakers, AEG, is up for sale. It didn't take long for possible suitors to surface. The
You'd think Lakers legend Magic Johnson would jump at the chance to own a piece of his former team, but he might be feeling the pinch lately. As Johnson revealed to HBO recently, the price tag on his minority share of the Dodgers was
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard
Howard's teammate Metta World Peace is continuing his foray into the
In related news, new Lakers point guard Steve Nash joined Jay Leno on the
"Obviously the Miami Heat are the champs, and I know you and Dwyane Wade are really tight," Nash said sarcastically. "He's on the show, what, twice a week?"
The comedic claws, as Leno noted, were out.
"Steve Nash, pithy," he shot back.
• Jeremy Lin worked out for the first time in front of the Houston media on Tuesday, then proceeded to make it clear that he doesn't see himself
Hierarchy discussions aside, Lin -- who lost 10 pounds in the offseason -- reported that he is fully recovered from the season-ending arthroscopic surgery he had in late March to repair a small meniscus tear in his left knee.
• Rose wasn't the only one to bare his soul recently. Knicks guard Iman Shumpert used the power of poetry
• There was a regrettable omission from
Meanwhile, there is still no deal for the player Barnes is replacing. Veteran power forward Kenyon Martin is determined
• Anyone tracking the never-ending saga of the Kings and their uncertain status in Sacramento remembers AEG as the high-powered and heavily invested third party in a downtown arena deal between the team's owners, the Maloofs, and the city that
"Not sure how many nails that baby will hold," the source quipped.
• Dudley was his entertaining and insightful self in our interview for SI.com's