Former NBA star Jalen Rose
Former Michigan and NBA star Jalen Rose will appear on NBA Countdown ahead of ESPN’s Saturday Primetime game between the Thunder and Warriors on Feb. 24.
Jalen Rose knew he was good.
And knew he wasn’t as good as he wished.
The ESPN NBA analyst grew up in Detroit, the son of a former No. 1 draft pick he never knew. He had basketball in his blood and an expectation he’d excel at the game. But he knew there were limits.
“My greatest reality check is that Magic Johnson was my childhood idol,” Rose said last week. “And I knew really fast that, ‘You’re good Jalen. You’re OK. But you’re no Magic Johnson.’”
That’s why Rose started to prepare for life after basketball long before he left the game. As a star (and part of the fabled Fab Five) at Michigan, he majored mass communications. As an NBA player, he sought out broadcast work and took assignments with BET, MTV, Fox Sports Net, NBC and more.
Now Rose — who on Feb. 24 will appear on NBA Countdown ahead of ESPN’s Saturday Primetime game between the Thunder and Warriors — spends much of his time on TV and podcasting.
But he’s also a dedicated philanthropist who started the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter school in his native Detroit and an outspoken observer of basketball and culture.
The one reason why I always implore and encourage young people to play sports is the skills that come with it that have nothing to do with the score of the game. The life skills, the social skills, the ability to sacrifice for a team, how to deal with adversity; how to be an athlete as well as a student; how to deal with success, how to deal with failure; how to deal with celebrity.
I always acknowledge that young people lose their innocence earlier now. They can type “www” and go wherever their mind wants to take them, whether it’s trained to digest what they’re about to see or not. There’s more cursing on the radio. There’s more sexually suggestive things on TV. As I rewind our era, it was a little different then.
Players and young people now want to be liked and want to be followed. The Fab Five didn’t care about either.
In Detroit, you gained tough skin early. Everybody has imperfections, and you get used to people cracking jokes about them — you’re too skinny; you got bumps on your face; you got bad teeth; you don’t have a dad; your bother’s in jail; your mom’s on crack. You can’t fight or be upset every time says somebody says something. In certain circumstances I grew up in, you could get mad if you wanted, but if you jumped up in the wrong person’s face, that gets you killed. So you learn the balance of being able to protect yourself and express yourself but be able to almost function in all areas of life like a chameleon.
Growing up playing John Madden Football or NBA Live — even in college or in the NBA, when you got a house full of people and a couple TVs — I couldn’t just take my loss and go home. I had to commentate the next game. That’s how I got my start.
What I’ve learned about players and media and managers and everyone is that the people who say they don’t care about what people say are usually the overly sensitive people sitting in the bathroom checking their Instagram messages and their Twitter feeds.
People respect and appreciate when you’re genuine and you’re factual. Initially I remember getting calls from players saying, ‘Why you gonna do me like that?’ You were 3 for 11, you had seven turnovers and y’all lost by 50. What do you expect me to say? I’m not on your staff. I didn’t say you were a serial killer. I said you stunk last night.
Growing up looked at people that were my age that the world felt — because I was a public-school kid — were ahead of me or smarter than me. I had a couple of those to look at in Chris Webber and Grant Hill. It was like, ‘C-Webb came from the esteemed high school. We know he’s gonna be able to make it at Michigan and make it in the classroom. What
are we gonna do with Jalen?’ I always looked at how C-Webb and Grant were being covered and portrayed and took pride in trying to be looked at in that similar light.
In any other walk of life, you’re able to profit off your abilities no matter how old you are. If you’re really intelligent at 15 years old and you can pass a test to get into Harvard, they’re gonna let you into Harvard. They’re not gonna hold you back. Only in basketball and football do those restraints take place. That’s a thing I hope and I think eventually will change.
When you sign a letter of intent, you’re basically signing a shoe deal also. And you’re not being compensated. When you realize these things, it starts to open your eyes to, yes, appreciate that I’m getting a scholarship, but they’re getting paid back a hundredfold.
The public perception on college sports has changed from ’Just shut up. You should be happy you’re on scholarship’ to ‘Wait a minute, they’re paying Rick Pitino how much? They’re paying Coach K how much?
Michigan got what in that shoe deal?’ Absolutely I feel vindicated. No question about it. Now I just want my reparations.
Jalen Rose, right, has been with ESPN since 2007 and since 2012 has been a studio analyst for “NBA Countdown.”