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Back Sports Page – Beyond The Athlete: Jalen Rose

February 9, 2011

Written By Seth Kamens
February 4, 2011

Jalen Rose has always been ahead of the curve. After a brilliant college and solid professional career, Rose has succeeded in a variety of ventures, both professional and philanthropic. Currently a successful NBA analyst for ESPN, Rose reminisced about his college and pro careers, his transition into media, and a multitude of other topics.

Rose was a basketball prodigy at SouthWestern High School in Detroit and would eventually join the most singularly important recruiting class in the history of college basketball – the “Fab Five.” Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson were all major recruits to Steve Fisher’s University of Michigan program. In fact, only Jackson was not a Top 10 recruit. Prior to joining Michigan, Rose was heavily recruited by UNLV. Interestingly, he watched the famous 1991 Duke-UNLV national semifinal in the basement of UNLV star shooting guard Anderson Hunt (a high school teammate). Led by Rose and Webber, Michigan would stunningly find itself in the final the following year against that same senior-laden Blue Devil team. Even Rose would admit, “Duke was just a better team, though after the UNLV game I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of the Blue Devils.” In 1993, the Wolverines would return to the national championship game against North Carolina. In a classic championship game, the Tarheels would prevail 73-71, due in part to Webber calling a timeout without any remaining. This would lead to the game-clinching technical. When asked about the game, Rose candidly admitted, “We were the better team but just weren’t hitting on all cylinders. Ray Jackson was hurt and we just weren’t hitting our open shots…but at the end of the day Donald Williams was hitting his shots and you just had to give them credit.” Without Webber, the Wolverines would make a valiant run to the Final 8 in 1994, losing to eventual championship Arkansas. Prior to the game, Rose remembered that “President Clinton (a huge Arkansas fan) was hanging out in our locker room while his team was warming up. We thought that we were the better team but these things happen.”

Though the Fab Five was only together fully for two years, its impact on college basketball has remained significant. The long, droopy shorts and black sneakers were revolutionary in their time and have remained popular ever since. In many ways, the success of the Fab Five was instrumental in the initial combination of the business and athletic sides of college sports. Rose took an immense pride in that team and it is evident to this very day. When asked whether there was a black mark for not winning a title, Rose adamantly replied “Absolutely not. Bo (Schembechler, the great Michigan football coach) never won a championship. To be perfectly honest, nobody remembers who won the national title ten years ago, but our team has a lasting legacy.” That loyalty was further reflected in his feelings about the professional careers of Jimmy King and Ray Jackson: “Both were dominant in the CBA and overseas and should have been able to play in the NBA,”; the Michigan booster allegations: “What allegedly happened with Chris (Webber) occurred in 1993 and yet it wasn’t revealed until 2002. Doesn’t that seem a bit bizarre?”; and the retirement of his #5: “I wouldn’t accept my number being retired by itself. We lived the Fab Five lifestyle but were truly unselfish. All five of our numbers should be retired on a single banner…no single player was bigger than the team. We were truly a unit.”

After foregoing his senior year at Michigan, Rose was selected with the 13th pick of the 1994 draft by the Denver Nuggets. After two years, he was traded to Indiana but would struggle until Larry Bird took over in 1998. Rose gives enormous credit to Bird, stating, “He was a visionary. The team didn’t make the playoffs under Larry Brown in his last year. In Bird’s first year, we made game 7 of the Eastern conference finals.” The Pacers, led by Rose and Reggie Miller, would also make the Eastern Conference finals in 1999 and the NBA finals in 2000. Rose won the Most Improved Player Award in 2000 and would average over 20 points for the next 4 seasons. After a solid 14-year career with 6 teams, he retired in 2007.

In summarizing his career, Rose explained that his proudest accomplishment was the opportunity to compete for a championship at every level. “Middle school, AAU, high school, college, pro…I got to compete against the best, which is what we all strive for. To me, that’s the ultimate.” On a more individual level, Rose and Reggie Miller each scored 40 points in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. “Larry Brown was the coach who gave me 15 DNP’s when I was first traded to Indianapolis. For all the great duo’s; Kobe and Shaq, Michael and Scottie, Magic and (James) Worthy…very rarely have two players scored 40 points in a playoff game. To accomplish this feat against a coach who benched me for much of my first season in Indiana, it meant a lot.” “I was also really proud of playing in the 2000 final and trying to defend against (Michael) Jordan in Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals. Ironically, I played against Phil Jackson in his final Eastern Championship in Chicago and his first NBA Championship in Los Angeles…and he is still going.”

As opposed to many other college athletes, Rose valued his education at the University of Michigan. “While other people were not going to class, I was taking my classes seriously and wanted to use my education. Though I finished my degree in Business at University College at the University of Maryland, I had a minor in mass communications from Michigan and wanted to use it. When I was traded to Chicago in 2002, I left a team that had gone to 3 conference championships to a team with 9 wins in February. Phil Jackson had already left and Bill Cartwright had taken over. The rookies weren’t jelling and though I was working hard with the Bulls, I thought that I should try to get some media experience as well.“ This led to a long-term involvement with Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show Period, a playoff analyst position at TNT, and currently a studio analyst position at ESPN. He has also made appearances on a variety of other ESPN flagship shows, including SportsCenter, First Take, and Mike and Mike in the Morning.

As an NBA analyst, Rose agreed with Lebron’s decision, though he admitted that the execution of the decision was a disaster. “Despite the fact that people said they didn’t care, over 10 million people watched. However, other than the viewership numbers, it was a debacle.” However, Rose thinks this proves that Lebron is the most unselfish superstar in professional sports. “It takes a lot to be a 2-time MVP but to play with (Dwayne) Wade who won a championship in 2006 and won the Finals MVP. Everyone is going to want to challenge his manhood. Oh…he is going from being Michael to Scottie, Batman to Robin and now he is just a sidekick. From a competitor and ego standpoint, you know you are going to have to take heat for the decision, and I applaud him for manning up to it.” When asked whether he thought that Lebron understood the ramifications of his decision, Rose replied, “He also knew the ramifications by staying in Cleveland that he would win 3 MVP’s but it still wouldn’t have mattered to the masses. You aren’t Kobe (Bryant), you aren’t MJ, your numbers are on that level but you don’t have the titles to back it up. By playing with Wade and (Chris) Bosh, you are taking the championships out of that equation. That’s what Magic did, Russell did, Isaiah did, Bird did…..play with hall of famers and that’s how you become a multiple champion.”

Rose has also ventured into the entertainment arena with appearances in movies such as Barbershop and Hoop Dreams, and music videos with such artists as Jamie Foxx, Nelly, Master P, and Ludacris. He is also a partner in Three Tier Entertainment, a multi-media production company committed to developing commercial projects for the Internet, film, and television.

In addition to all of this, Rose has won numerous awards from the NBA, The Sporting News, and BET for his philanthropic endeavors. To learn more about these charitable efforts and his newly formed charter school, please click on the following link www.jalenrose.com.

With his numerous ventures and philanthropic efforts, Jalen Rose sets a high standard for how professional athletes could best utilize their time and energies off the court. Whether you agree with his views or not, his candidness on all aspects of his career are enlightening in an era where athletes often shun such responsibility.