Speculation has arisen this week as to whether Derrick Rose is about to exit the NBA stage and retire from basketball at just 29 years old. Rose showed amazing potential in his early career and was awarded MVP honors after a mind-blowing 2010 - 2011 season. However, like others before him, injuries have meant heartache.. Not only for fans of the Chicago Bulls, where he was set to carry the franchise, but for fans and appreciators of exceptional basketball from around the world.
Regardless of what decision Rose makes, his devastating injuries will always leave us wondering about what might have been. Throughout NBA history there have been players who's careers have ended sooner than we would have liked, some had already been champions, others could have been and still others were simply so fun to watch that we wish they could have played for longer. Here are just a few:
Larry Johnson. LJ was a legend in the 90s. He was unstoppable on NBA Jam, made a four point play for the Knicks and he had a gold tooth. Let's not also forget that he had unforgettable commercials and was also in Space Jam! As if all that wasn't enough, he was also a great player and a larger than life character who brought great energy to the teams which he played on. Johnson called it a day at age 32 due to back problems, but grandmama will always live on in thrift stores everywhere.
Isiah Thomas. It's easy to forget that the original IT's career ended earlier than most. Arguably the best point guard of the 80s (some even say best PG ever), winning titles with the Detroit Pistons and being a 12 time all-star meant that his career could have easily spilled into the mid to late 90s. He retired from playing, again at age 32, he went on to be an owner and executive VP for the newly former Toronto Raptors. During his four year stint with the team he drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby and Tracy McGrady. Not bad!
Steve Francis. He was drafted in 1999 to the Vancouver Grizzlies who he famously demanded to be traded from. Francis was an amazing player, he brought streetball moves to the NBA, combined with Yao Ming (another early retirement dude) to form a deadly duo and could possibly have won the 2000 dunk contest if it wasn't for some dude named Vince Carter. Francis was apparently not the easiest guy to get along with, this combined injuries meant that we never got to see Stevie become the franchise player he should have been, at least not in the NBA. He ended his playing career overseas.
Jason Williams. Again entering the league in the late 90s, he was dubbed the new Pistol Pete. He had flashy moves, a fearless attitude and played with a flair which gave hope to short white dudes all over the world, including me. His career was solid, majoring on assists more than points, he came to what felt like a premature end in his early 30s. He also played oh so briefly in the Big 3 league this summer, only to go out with an injury in his first game. Please believe, J-Will still has mad game!
Of course I could mention Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan as others who retired (at least once) prematurely but these guys go without saying. Derrick Rose will never have the career he should have had, but at least we have 2010 - 2011. Enjoy.