It was during the Wednesday press conference at the Berto Center announcing his five-year, $94 million contract extension that Derrick Rose, the MVP from Englewood, turned to his mother, who was sitting with his three brothers nearby.
"I can finally say this now, Mom," he said. "We finally made it."
Derrick Rose has made it, all right, and so have the Bulls, who were thrilled to lock up their home-grown franchise player to a maximum length extension. It can never be easy to commit to paying one player that much money. In this case, however, there seems to be little risk. Rose's intangibles coupled with his rare talent made this an easy contract for both sides to sign.
Rose went from Rookie of the Year to All-Star to NBA MVP. At 23, he's one of the league's best players and nobody, including Rose, knows how good he can be yet.
"I don't think you can put a ceiling on what Derrick can become with his work ethic, drive and determination," general manager Gar Forman said. "It's scary to think. He'll get better and better throughout his career."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said his only regret was that he couldn't sign his star point guard to an even longer deal.
"What we've seen up to now, he embodies all the characteristics you look for in a championship player and it's a lot more than the talent," Thibs said. "The talent is the obvious part. Then when you look at his will to win, his basketball IQ, his unselfishness, his humility, those are the things you can build a championship-caliber team around. The way he works each and every day sets the tone for our team. He's a guy we're going to build our team around. His poise and confidence comes from his preparation. This guy puts in everything he has every single day. He does it year round. When you do that you'll continually improve. Obviously, we're excited to have him. I wish it was a 10-year contract."
It's an amazing story. Rose rose from one of the Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods to star for a franchise that has been searching for Michael Jordan's replacement since 1998. Now, for the first time since the Jordan years, another NBA Championship feels within reach.
Rose emphasized once again Wednesday that earning the organization's seventh NBA title is his primary goal. He also said the addition of Rip Hamilton and experience gained from last year's playoff run makes this the best Bulls team he has played on.
"Management did a great job of bringing in guys that just want to win," Rose said. "They don't care about their stats or anything. They just want to win games. With Thibs and the coaching staff, they have been doing a great job of pushing us in practice and make sure we're going hard. We've only got one thing in mind, and that's to win a championship."
Throughout the press conference, Rose kept returning to where he's from. He said he would like to use some of his newfound riches to improve the neighborhood where he grew up. He also said he would like to bring indoor basketball courts and after-school programs to Englewood.
"I never would've thought in a million years that I would sign a contract like this, especially coming from the area I'm from," he said. "No one from Englewood, period, has ever been in my position. Sometimes when you think 'why me', for me to be 23 years old, and I know I'm truly blessed and don't take anything for granted. I appreciate everyone around me, all my fans and my family."
Rose promises the money won't change who he is as a person or a player.
"If anything, it would've changed me by now. Now, with the salary I've got, I'm able to get whatever I want. I don't spend that much. I'm humble. I take care of others. It has a lot to do with my mom, just making sure I'm talking to her all the time, talking to my brothers all the time, they're always talking to me, telling me to stay level-headed and make sure I provide for other people."
The new contract doesn't begin until next season. Rose said he's not even sure how much his current contract is paying him.
"I don't even know how much I make right now to tell you the truth," he said. "I just know I get paid. I watch my accounts. They're growing and I'm happy."