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2002: SLAM MAGAZINE – Jalen Rose: D12

June 23, 2008

September 2002 — Whether he’s on or off the court, whether he’s in
Chicago or back home in Detroit, Jalen Rose has a squad to back him up.

Madison Square Garden, April 11, 2002. It’s just six days until the end
of the regular season, and two things are evident: The Knicks have just
lost to Chicago for the third time this season; and, after four
straight years of playoff shine, Thursday will be the first day of
Jalen Rose’s vacation.

But by the look of things (check him and his old Detroit Southwestern
HS teammate Howard Eisley exchanging smiles and conversation on the
court) Jalen doesn’t seem too disappointed. So it’s a perfect time to
let him know that SLAM wants to get at him for an interview. "No
problem," he says. "Here’s my cell number. Call me next week and we’ll
make it happen." Sounds like a piece of cake? Think again.

See, you have to remember that Jalen hasn’t had an early vacation in a
while, so he’s gonna take full advantage. You’ve gotta catch him if and
when you can. The chase went sort of like this:

4/17: We leave a message asking for the best time to hook up for the interview.
4/19: Having heard nothing back, we leave a second message on Jalen’s cell.
4/21: Jalen returns our calls, apologizing that he accidentally erased
our digits, and that he wants to do the interview the following weekend
in Atlanta, where he’ll be a guest on TNT’s Inside The NBA.
4/24: Jalen now says he?s not doing TNT anymore and that it would be
better to do the interview in Detroit that weekend because he wants to
visit his mother for her birthday.
4/25: Jalen cancels the Detroit plans because he says he has to "go
handle something in L.A.," but he wants to do the interview and photo
shoot the following week in Detroit.
4/26-5/1: Jalen isn’t heard from, but he does show up for his photo shoot.
5/2: Jalen calls to say he might be coming to NYC to do the new Ashanti video.
5/6: Without warning, Jalen calls and says he’s in New York for the
Styles video shoot, but is leaving for Chicago the next day and (even
though it’s almost midnight) offers to come to Manhattan tomorrow for
5/7: Jalen and SLAM finally have lunch.

"Man, it’s 12 in the afternoon, I’m eating lobster pot pie, having a
brew – I’ve got the cheesecake brownie, nice fresh haircut, I’m
chillin’." This is Jalen, relaxed on this sunny spring day at
Manhattan’s Red Eye Grill. Free of the stress of an up-and-down NBA
season, Jalen just looks like somebody on vacation – somebody loving
his vacation.

"Really, unwinding for me is just not having a game," he says while
signing an autograph for the waitress. "Because when you play ball, you
just assume I have X amount of months out of the year [to relax], but
mentally, it’s 365. So you gotta find a healthy balance and let
yourself breathe so it becomes fresh to you when it’s time to lace it
back up for good."

Jalen hasn’t had time to bitch, to hate or even to pose a simple frown
about being booted from Indiana in February. He’s been too busy making
his rounds across the country, checking his two-year-old daughter
Mariah in Atlanta, chilling at his new home in Chicago, kicking it in
Cali. But the reason for Jalen’s tranquility today is that he?s just
returned from Detroit, the place No. 5 calls home.

Home is Appeline between Pierson and Florence, where Jalen fell in love
with basketball at the age of 10 after he and his boys Trent, Pep, Vest
and Carlos (who called themselves "The Dream Team")built two hoops with
wood, crates and nails. Home is where he and his high school partner
Michael Hamilton used to wake up every Saturday morning, put on ankle
weights and run to the gym. Home is where Jalen, as a star on his
12-and-under AAU team The Superfriends, met a tight,
cut-off-shorts-and-dirty-socks-wearing kid named Chris who would become
one of his best friends and later help him destroy the NCAA from and
for the crib. There’s no team, state or place that could make Jalen
feel more comfortable than when he’s home with his fam blood or
otherwise. Jalen loves his hood, and the hood loves Jalen. "When I go
home to play the Pistons it’s ironic, because I’ll have 50, 70 people
at the game," he says. "I played in the League eight years, and I’ve
never traveled and saw that kind of following or that kind of love from
no other situation. That means my situation is special."

Home is also where Jeanne Rose raised Bill, Kevin, Tammy and her baby
boy, Jalen Anthony all by herself. Jalen never got to meet his father,
former NBA All-Star Jimmy Walker, so for Jeanne, it was never an easy
task. She tried to be concerned and watchful, but not restricting, as
those homemade hoops her son played on were in a nearby alley, not the
safest place to be in one of America’s murder capitals. Where Jalen’s
friend Hamilton was killed by gun violence. As much joy as she saw
being brought to her son through basketball, Jeanne preferred Jalen to
be home, attending to his second love. "I study music like I study
basketball," he offers. "I’m sittin’ up watching games every night
listening to the radio. I grew up in one of the houses with a slanted
attic. On one side I had my hip-hop celebrities and on the other side I
had my sports celebrities. Just like I had Magic, Bird, Gerv, Isiah,
Dr. J on one side, on the other side I had Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick,
Father MC, LL. That was kinda my balance."

Re-track that last quote. Jalen said one of the players on his sports
wall was "Isiah." As in Isiah Thomas, maybe the nicest player ever in
Jalen’s hometown and current coach of the Pacers, who just traded him
to the Bulls. Basically, the reason he’s having lunch in NYC instead of
playing the Nets in the first round of the playoffs. It just doesn’t
make sense. Jalen Rose grew up in Detroit, a Pistons fan. His favorite
player besides Magic was Zeke, who played his whole NBA career in
Detroit, where Jalen captured All-City and All-American honors, three
city championships and two state titles. Jalen could never afford to
attend Isiah’s basketball camps, but Zeke made sure he and Joe Dumars
took time to run against the Wolverines once Jalen landed at Michigan.
To Jalen, Isiah was almost the father he never met. So you can imagine
how elated Jalen was when he found out Isiah was trying to put a Coach
in front of Thomas. If only he’d known.

"To be honest, it’s kinda hard to say where it went wrong," Jalen
tells. "Obviously, I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did. And
honestly, he has a track record for not being honest, or upfront. I
just didn’t want to consider myself another testament to that." Rose,
who says he was phoned by Thomas after Larry Bird’s resignation and
asked to help him attain the Pacers job, adds, "I’m not going to say
that I was the reason he got the job. They’re not firing or hiring
anybody because of me, but I was a pawn in that game. I was definitely
a supporter of the act."
Still, forget if you can any personal riffs. This is strictly business:
How could a head coach be displeased with his most versatile player,
who came off a Most Improved Player season in ’99-00 to lead his squad
in scoring in Zeke’s first season? "The first year he had the job, I
was the only one in the NBA getting over 20 [points], six [assists] and
five [rebounds]. I had a good year and was gonna come back, but for
whatever reason the situation personally was different," Rose says. "I
don’t know if [Isiah] had the heads up already that I may be moved or
he was positioning his self to get me moved. But after the season
started he didn?t treat me like I was a cool nigga that he’s been
knowing all [his life]. I noticed how he started treating me like, fuck
me. Just talking to me any way in front of the team, trying to make
everything my fault, unnecessarily. To the point where everybody’s
like, "Damn, why you the whippin’ boy?"