Saturday was supposed to be a celebration of the release of his latest signature shoe, the Adidas D Rose 5 featuring its well-received Boost technology. Instead, the day turned into yet another show of the love Rose has for Chicago.
The Bulls guard first held court at the Adidas flagship store at Water Tower Place with a select group of kids from the After School Matters program who received a pair of his new sneakers and a D Rose-branded book bag. He recently donated $1 million to the nonprofit group, helping further its mission to provide teens in the city a safe place to get help with homework and prepare them for college or learn skills that will help them enter the workforce upon graduation from high school.
"My message to our kids is simple: You matter," Rose said in a statement announcing the donation. "You deserve every opportunity in life, and you can and should dream big because dreams can come true."
From there, it was a trip about a mile or so south to Foot Locker's House of Hoops on State Street. Rose spoke to the media for about 10 minutes, and then for an hour shook hands, kissed babies (not really), signed autographs and took pictures with around 150 fans, while hundreds more gathered outside on the sidewalk—some even standing atop the Red Line subway entrance—just to try and catch a glimpse of him.
Inside, every person who got face time with Rose was all smiles. The first person in line actually cried as soon as he saw her, smiled and said hello. One woman insisted she be the last person up so she could present a custom piece of art she made for the superstar. There was even a fan with a sign stating she had flown all the way from L.A. for the chance to meet her favorite player. And yes, she got her wish.
After all the autographs were signed and cellphone pictures taken, Rose walked over to Foot Locker's glass windows to greet the fans who weren't able to get inside but still wanted a chance to see him. The scene was reminiscent of MTVs "TRL" days when musical guests would wave at fans gathered in Times Square.
The only difference was Rose was much closer to the people screaming his name and snapping pictures. Even though he's essentially been out of the spotlight for two years, Rose received the same treatment as a rock star.
"When you have people standing outside wearing all of your stuff like this, it freaks you out a little bit," Rose told RedEye. "It just lets you know that there's a higher power somewhere. It's a good feeling being where I'm at right now and I'm just going to try and keep inspiring people."
It was a gorgeous day outside in Chicago on Saturday and an even more beautiful display of the connection Rose has for the city he represents every time he dons his Bulls uniform.
The 2014-15 NBA season kicks off this week and if his last few preseason performances are any indication, Rose is again ready to represent the place he calls home and try and deliver Chicago its seventh NBA championship.
Bryan Crawford is an Englewood native, like Derrick Rose, and a RedEye special contributor.