2006: THE STAR LEDGER – KNICKS: Good-guy Hill at root of Rose
June 23, 2008
Tuesday, February 07, 2006 (GREENBURGH, N.Y.) — Everywhere he’s gone,
Jalen Rose has brought a big smile, an astute understanding of the game
he plays so well, and a mixed reputation.
He’s selfish, they say. He’s friendly, but manipulative. He’s a scorer,
but he’s more interested in piling up statistics than in winning. He’s
smart, yes, but he’s shrewd, like a locker-room lawyer.
He was traded by four teams, and benched by both Larry Brown and Isiah
Thomas. But those are the same two who just grabbed him from Toronto.
Now, in his 12th season, we are still trying to figure out if Rose is a
whole new player, or a misunderstood guy carrying baggage that doesn’t
even belong to him.
And don’t tiptoe around the subject with Rose either, because he faces
it head-on. He’s heard what they’ve been saying about him for years,
ever since high school when people compared him to Grant Hill, who
might be the Beaver Cleaver of the NBA compared to Rose.
"I always had the reputation of being this loudmouthed kid from the
west side of Detroit who grew up as (an illegitimate child), never knew
his father," Rose said. "It’s like, ‘if he wasn’t in the NBA he would
probably be somewhere trying to rob somebody and sell drugs.’"
This is what Rose has been hearing since the day he entered the NBA,
selected by the Denver Nuggets 13th overall, 10 spots below Hill in the
wild Knicks/Rangers/O.J. summer of 1994. In fact, he still has the
videotape of draft night when, even before he shook David Stern’s hand,
a commentator called him "uncoachable."
"Where does that come from?" he asked rhetorically yesterday. "I hadn’t played a minute in the NBA yet."
It comes, he firmly believes, from his days at Michigan as a member of the Fab Five, and that comparison to Hill.
For Magic, there was Bird. For Rose, there is Hill. Despite the fact
the two are rather friendly, Hill is the Mr. Hyde to Rose’s Dr. Jekyll,
the sun to his cloudy day.
Hill and Rose are contemporaries, dating to their under-13 days in AAU
before they faced off in the 1992 NCAA Championship game that pitted
the "good guy" Duke Blue Devils against Michigan’s Fab Five — that
brash, talented, trend-setting group of kids who stormed college
basketball back in 1992 with their elongated shorts, black socks, Final
Four appearances, and retroactive NCAA violations.
"That was always my positive rival, so to speak," Rose said of Hill.
"We get along real well and we’ve been playing against each other since
we were 13. But he was always portrayed as the good guy, and I was the
The comparison gets deeper, and when you’re compared to Grant Hill, it’s hard coming off as the nicer guy.
Hill’s dad is Calvin Hill, an Ivy Leaguer and former running back with
the Dallas Cowboys. Rose’s dad is Jimmy Walker, who played for the
Pistons, Rockets and Kansas City Kings. But Walker has yet to meet his
son face to face. He wasn’t sitting in the stands that night in ’92 the
way Calvin Hill was.
"He came from the prestigious family," Rose said about Grant Hill, "his
mom went to school with Hillary Rodham Clinton and he went to Duke, the
good school, while I went to the University of Michigan; a great
school, but they used to talk about it like it was UNLV or something.
"His dad went to Yale and was an athlete just like mine, but the
difference is, his dad was part of his life and he got all positive
reflections from that and the reputation that his family upholds. My
relationship with my dad was estranged because we never met.
"People always put that on me, and obviously the Fab Five reputation
didn’t help either for people who wanted to put negative energy on a
group of 18-year-olds who used to wear big shorts, black shoes and
Years later, Rose still feels he is fighting that reputation, even
though he is known for dedicated charity work and a cooperative and
approachable way with fans and media. Also, he points out that on
almost every team he has played for, excluding only the Nuggets in his
first two years, Rose was a captain.
Obviously, Brown and Thomas weren’t scared off by the reputation or from their past dealings with him.
"As you get older your views change and you mature a lot," Thomas said.
"The way he thought at 28 is totally different from the way he thinks
at 33. People who know him respect what he brings to the table."
Whatever Rose brings to the table, he has brought on his own, without
his father, and somehow doesn’t hold any grudges. They have
communicated through e-mail five or six times, he estimates, and spoken
on the phone twice. One day, he says, they will meet.
"If he’s anything like me, and I’m sure he is, I would think his pride
is telling him he wants to come into my life when I’m done playing,"
Rose said. "I’ll give him that respect, and that’s what I go to bed
believing every night.
"It’s hard, but I had a great mom and great family situation. It’s not
like I’m homeless living under a freeway. He gave me a seed and I’m
very happy with my life. That’s a direct result, I’m sure, of that
That’s a reputation worth savoring.
BY DAVID WALDSTEIN — Star-Ledger Staff
© 2006 The Star Ledger
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