From an early age, Derrick Rose had the kind of giddy-up that allowed him to move like a blur in the open floor, then explode toward the hoop so vigorously that defenders flailed as if they had been whipped by gale-force winds. Rose’s speed and athleticism separated him from the rest, until he learned in seventh grade that if he was going to be the basketball player he wanted to be, he was going to have to level up.

He needed to get on O.J. Mayo’s level.

Rose played Mayo in an AAU tournament back then and the outcome was not pretty. Mayo overpowered Rose, out-skilled him, embarrassed him and sent him back home to Chicago with a better understanding of what it took to be considered the best. At the time, Mayo was already dominating high school players in Kentucky – where middle schoolers are allowed to play varsity basketball – so he had a decided edge going up against fellow seventh graders.

“I got a chance to play against Juice,” Rose said,…





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