It’s gotta be the shoes

Daniel Perrett-Goluboff



If you care about basketball, then you’ve already seen the clip. Chicago held a 99-87 lead with one minute and 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter of their round-one game-one playoff matchup against Philadelphia. Derrick Rose drove in to the paint, came to a jumpstop as he dished the ball to Carlos Boozer, and both his ACL and the Bulls’ hope for a seventh title simultaneously tore to pieces.

The arena hushed into immediate silence while the reigning MVP had to be helped from the court under the assistance of teammates and trainers.

I know it may seem irrelevant or meaningless to most of you, but I don’t understand how there can be people who don’t feel bad for Rose. Obviously, I hold a bias as a lifetime Chicago Bulls fan, but I still cannot wrap my head around the ways in which so much of the NBA universe has reacted to what I would venture to call a tragedy.

Some background for those of you who might not follow: Rose is the best thing to happen to basketball since shorts cut below the knee. Rose grew up playing playground ball on Chicago’s south side, won a state championship for Chicago’s Simeon High School and then played one year at Memphis before being drafted to his home team, the Chicago Bulls.

He is, in my opinion, the best feel-good story to come out of professional sports in the last decade. This is precisely why I have been astounded at the behavior and reactions of many people close to the association.

Enter Jason Petrie, a shoe designer for Nike Basketball. Recently, Rose — affectionately nicknamed ‘Pooh’ by his mother — signed a $200 million endorsement deal with Adidas, guaranteeing that they would be the company to produce and market his signature shoe, the adiZero Rose, for the next 13 years.

Of course, this decision came much to the dismay of Nike Basketball and, more specifically, Petrie. Petrie designs many of the high-end basketball shoes for star players signed to Nike contracts — most notably, LeBron James.

Petrie, who in all likelihood would have designed Rose’s sneakers had he signed with Nike, tweeted about Rose’s injury shortly after it happened: “You got one guy getting stronger and one guy breaking down before our very eyes. You chose poorly Pooh…”

A brief translation for those of you who don’t understand: Petrie is referring to James — a Nike Basketball signee — as the individual who is “getting stronger,” and then insinuating that Rose might not have sustained the injury had his shoes been adorned with a swoosh instead of the three stripes.

What we have here is simple. Rose is a man who has dedicated the entirety of his life to basketball. A man who may, now, never be able to perform at the elite level that he has earned through years and years of tireless, disciplined work.

Petrie is the inverse of this. Petrie is a snide, overpaid bully who was willing to insult a man dealing with the biggest setback of his professional career for the small benefit of wider recognition on twitter.

As is the nature of these things, Petrie has issued multiple apologies for his statement and Nike Basketball has stated that they do not stand behind his statement. But the question remains: What kind of society have we become if we cannot offer sympathy to a man at his weakest point?

What kind of person would say these things directly after the event occurred, if at all? The situation represents a truth about athletics in America that is only gaining more validity as time goes by: We as athletes, spectators or, in this case, designers, allow ourselves to get too caught up in our personal allegiances to view a situation appropriately.

Rose’s injury has nothing to do with his shoes. It’s far bigger than that. Rose’s injury is about the millions of fans whose hearts he’s captured, the people he has inspired and the game he has changed. Rose’s injury is about learning to rebuild and learning to hope, not learning to post bigoted comments on social networking sites.