LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. — Right from the start, Derrick Rose wondered why he couldn't be the MVP. It turns out, nothing was stopping him.
Rose officially became the NBA's youngest MVP on Tuesday and joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls players to win the award.
The news was hardly a surprise after Rose had a spectacular season in leading Chicago to the league's best record
Rose has a ways to go before he catches Jordan, who won five MVPs and led the way to two title three-peats, but he sure is off to a good start. In his third year, the dynamic point guard led the Bulls to their best season since the Jordan-led championship era.
The 22-year-old Rose got 113 first-place votes from a panel of media voters. Orlando's Dwight Howard finished second, Miami's LeBron James was third, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant was fourth and Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant finished fifth.
A product of Chicago's South Side, Rose established himself as one of the top players in the league after going from Rookie of the Year to an All-Star in his first two seasons. He took another step this year with one of the best all-around performances by a point guard.
He averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists while leading Chicago into contention for its first championship since the Jordan-Scottie Pippen era. For all the groaning over the Bulls missing out on James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in free agency, they did quite well for themselves anyway.
Looking for more after back-to-back 41-win seasons and first-round playoff exits, they fired coach Vinny Del Negro and replaced him with Tom Thibodeau. Then, they landed Carlos Boozer and supporting players like Kyle Korver, giving the Bulls the inside scoring presence they were lacking and one of the deepest rotations.
It all added up to this — a 62-20 record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. They advanced past the first round for just the second time since the championship era, and the biggest reason for all that, of course, was Rose.
He showed up to training camp openly wondering why he couldn't be MVP. Then, he backed it up.
He ranked seventh in scoring and 10th in assists, making him the only player this season in the top 10 in both categories. The only other Bull to do so was Jordan in 1988-89, when he led the league in scoring (32.5 points) and finished 10th in assists, according to information provided to the team by the Elias Sports Bureau.
Throw in a 4.1 rebounding average, and Rose joins another elite group. He's the seventh player in league history to average at least 25 points, 7.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds, along with Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Wade and James, according to Elias.
In the postseason, he's been just as impressive.
He scored 39 and 36 points in the first two playoff games against Indiana. Then he shook off two subpar performances and a sprained left ankle to score 25 points in Game 5 as the top-seeded Bulls closed out what had been a tight first-round series with a 116-89 victory.
They stumbled in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta, losing 103-95. Rose scored 24 points, but he hit just 11 of 27 shots and did not attempt a free throw. He also limped off the court after twisting his left ankle, but expects to be ready for Game 2 on Wednesday.
It's been a rapid, steady climb for a player who came into the league with soaring expectations. He helped Simeon Career Academy become the first Chicago Public League team to win back-to-back state championships, then led Memphis to the NCAA championship game before the Bulls drafted him with the No. 1 pick in 2008.
Since then, he's been everything Chicago imagined.
He's added new wrinkles to his game every season, expanding the range on his jumper to go with those explosive drives to the basket. He went from shooting 22.2 percent and 26.7 percent on 3-pointers his first two years to a more respectable 33.2 percent this season, and his scoring average again climbed about four points after going from 16.8 to 20.8 his first two years.
No surprise there.
He was a fixture at the team's practice facility in the offseason when he wasn't getting ready for the world championships. When he was on the road, he was constantly checking in, asking about his teammates and what he should be doing.
That struck a chord with Thibodeau, the long time NBA assistant who finally got a shot after helping Boston win a championship and get back to the NBA finals. So did this: the experience Rose gained with the national team, particularly playing alongside Chauncey Billups.
Now, the kid from the South Side who led his hometown team back to prominence can call himself MVP.
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