It didn’t exactly strike Jalen Rose as strange that people were naming their children after him. But it did flatter him.
“Jalen is a universal name. If it was the most popular in 1992, there’s no surprise when you’re watching college basketball or football each weekend, there’s a variation of a Jalen on every team,” he laughed. “That’s the most humbling thing anybody can do is name their kid after you.”
Though humbling, it inspired Rose, 42, to tell his story of coming up from the gritty, hardscrabble basketball courts of Detroit, to Fab Five stardom at the University of Michigan, to a 13-year career in the NBA as a 6’8 small forward and guard and finally as an ESPN sports analyst.
So he released a memoir called “Got to Give the People What They Want: True Stories and Flagrant Opinions from Center Court,” in which he introduces readers to himself at a personal level.
Heralding the University of Michigan’s this-close-to-heaven Fab Five in the 90s with teammates Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King, they introduced the world to looking good on the court while also playing even better. That self-expression transcended race, creed, gender and socio-economic status.
But many basketball purists were critical, and even downright nasty toward their early following.
“We looked different, we sounded different, we were a lot more brash,” Rose told EBONY by phone. “When we became mainstream, people didn’t know that we weren’t malicious, we weren’t mean, we were just different. We were just loud! We were giving you guys something that you hadn’t seen before. So I used to take it personal because I had to fight that off for years.”
Nabbed as 13th pick by the Denver Nuggets in the 1994 NBA Draft, Rose enjoyed a 13-year NBA tenure with career averages of 14 points per game, an NBA Finals appearance with the Indiana Pacers and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2000. Now retired, along with being a dad and his ESPN duties, he’s head of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy charter school in Detroit.
In the book, he digs deep going as far back as his high school days at Detroit Southwestern, where he played alongside future NBA stars Voshon Lenard and Howard Eisley.
“It’s an insight on what makes me tick,” said Rose. “You may see me on ESPN’s NBA Countdown, but people don’t know what makes me tick.”
Rose’s book also details his relationship with his grandmother who he credits as his biggest supporter, highlights his reverence for Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas, both of whom coached Rose during his days as an Indiana Pacer. He also delves into what it’s like to be a second generation ballplayer despite never meeting his father Jimmy Walker, an All-Star who played in the NBA for seven years. Walker died in 2007.
Despite that, Rose counts many in his tight knit family that served as positive role models. They include his mother who raised him alone while working at Chrysler for 20 years, and his grandfather who owned a grocery store in Bainbridge, Georgia. “He was my first illustration of cool,” Rose said of his grandfather. “He was always well dressed, wearing a pea-coat, wearing nice hats and he was an entrepreneur at a time when our country was a lot different as it related to what we could do as people of color.”
Rose expects his readers to enjoy his insight and more importantly the experience. At the same time, he wants people to simply get to know him through everything he’s seen through the years and in the end know he’s just like everyone else.
“I am that kind of guy that when I walk into a room I speak to everybody,” Rose said. “How you doing? What’s going on? Hugs and kisses and dap whether I’m at the barbershop, on the airplane, that’s just something that I’ve adopted.”
Below is an excerpt from Rose’s book:
Six months before meeting [Muhammad] Ali, I was just heading off to be a star at Michigan. But I felt like Jed Clampett. You know, from The Beverly Hillbillies. I was driving my mom’s green Dodge Shadow, which I’d gotten late in eleventh grade to replace the Omni she had given me when I got my license. Since my mom worked at Chrysler, we’d gotten both cars on a big discount using the “A- plan” for employees. The car wasn’t too big, and I’d loaded up the back with my stereo components, so for the thirty-minute drive west out of Detroit to Ann Arbor, I had to pack it to the brim to get everything I needed for school inside. Like I said, Jed Clampett.
When I got to town, I had no idea where my dorm was and had to call an assistant coach from a pay phone to have him direct me. That’s right, no cell phone! Finally, I pulled up and got out. I heard my name being shouted. I looked, and there they all were—Michigan’s other four star freshman recruits, hanging out of the window, welcoming the fifth and final member of the club.
It couldn’t have felt more right.
I’d obviously known C-Webb for years, and he and I had become friendly with Juwan Howard through camps. We’d met Jimmy King at the McDonald’s All- American game the spring before and had ac-tually rearranged our dorm assignments with the other guys so all five of us could all be in connecting rooms. I’d never met Ray Jackson before, though—so this was really the first time, in my head and my heart, that the full brotherhood was formed. Instantly. From the get-go, we were all just giddy, joking around like we’d known each other for years, like we were destined to play together. After an hour or so it became apparent hanging out and playing video games wasn’t going to quench the adrenaline that we had going.
If you looked out the window of our dorm rooms, you’d notice a full-court basketball court right outside South Quad. And there’s no time like the present, right? So we headed outside and walked onto the court. There were some other kids playing and they were psyched to have us join them, pretty quickly figuring out who we were. At first, we played against them a bit, going easy. Soon, though, it turned into a highlight show. I threw an alley-oop to Chris, and he almost broke the basket dunking it. Jimmy and Ray started taking turns going coast-to-coast. Juwan, throwing bullet outlet passes, and two-handed stuffs. Total Showtime. The other guys who had been playing stood off to the side, egging us on to do more. Pretty soon people were hanging out of windows all over the quad, checking us out, screaming for us, giving us love.
Unofficially, it was the first day of the Fab Five.
It was the first sign that a revolution might be coming.
(Reprinted with permission)
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit www.ScoopB.com.