Derrick Rose's knees, which once propelled the Chicago Bulls guard to a league MVP award and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, passed away Monday morning at Rush University Medical Center.
They were 25 years old.
The Bulls drafted Rose and his knees first overall in 2008 after the tandem played one outstanding year at the University of Memphis. Almost immediately, Rose's knees were on the shortlist of the most promising prospects in the entire NBA, helping the guard emerge as a potent offensive weapon known for quick crossovers and slick assists.
Rose and his knees won Rookie of the Year honors in 2008-09, but it wasn't until 2010-11, with the addition of coach Tom Thibodeau, that they became true superstars. That year, Rose and his knees averaged 25 points and almost eight assists per game, leading the Bulls to a first place finish and a Conference Finals showdown with the Miami Heat.
Though the Bulls lost that series, Rose and his knees were expected to keep Chicago dominant for years to come.
Then came the 2011-12 season, and tragedy.
With Rose hobbled by a handful of unrelated injuries, Rose's knees saw limited playing time. Still, the Bulls captured the East's top playoff seed, and seemed poised for a deep run.
But in the first game of the first round, Rose landed awkwardly, tearing the ACL in his left knee. The knee soon underwent surgery, and was expected to miss most of the next year while rehabbing. Ultimately, though, the left knee took longer to heal — it could not reliably boost Rose to dunk with in-game intensity — so it saw no action at all in 2012-13.
The surgically repaired left knee made its much-anticipated return to action this year. And soon, there was speculation it could be even stronger than before.
Yet a mere 10 games into the season, Rose's other knee met with misfortune.
On Friday against the Portland Trailblazers, the young point guard tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. Doctors raced to perform surgery on the knee, but there was little they could do: On Monday, the knee was declared done for the year.
Though Rose will be back in 2014, he will be playing with two newly reconstructed knees, making it uncertain whether he'll be able to come anywhere near his old level of dominance. Already with one bum knee this year, Rose's point, assist, and steal averages dropped to their lowest levels since his rookie campaign.
"It's a huge loss," teammate Kirk Hinrich said of the news. "Everything we do is built around him." (And his knees.)
Rose's knees are survived by a now-shaky lineup with gutted title aspirations, and a funny-sad meme with renewed shelf life.