Miami Dolphins billionaire owner Stephen Ross took the time Wednesday to thank two people during Ndamukong Suh’s introductory news conference: One was fellow billionaire Warren Buffett. The other was former NBA star and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose.
The Ross-Buffett connection should not come as a surprise. There are only a few multi-billionaires in the United States, and they tend to run in the same circles. However, Rose's shout-out was a surprise.
"I've come a long way from the west side of Detroit," Rose said, laughing, on Friday.
Rose sent Ross an email vouching for Suh's character that went a long way with the Dolphins' owner. Ross was touched so much that he mentioned Rose on national TV.
ESPN.com's Dolphins page caught up with Rose to discuss his rapport with Miami's owner, what the Dolphins are getting in Suh, and whether the Miami Heat will make the NBA playoffs.
James Walker: I've been to a lot of Dolphins news conferences, and it caught me off guard to hear a Jalen Rose reference from the owner. What was that like?
Jalen Rose: With all humility, I watched that press conference excited that I got mentioned, as well. While we’re fellow Michigan alums, and while we’ve attended multiple football games together -- Michigan games as well as Dolphins games, including last year when the Dolphins were playing in Detroit -- I have the same amount of respect and humility as anyone else would have just because somebody like Stephen Ross even knows my name. There are a lot of people that go to Michigan [laughs]. So, trust me, I felt the exact same way. Whether 1 percent or 99 percent, my message to him about Suh meant enough to him to pay attention and acknowledge it, but also take it to heart to the point he can mention it in a press conference.
Walker: You’re a Detroit native who's gotten to know Suh over the years. What are the Dolphins getting?
Rose: First off, I’m going to talk about the football player. Because that’s why the Dolphins gave him $100 million. Let me just say this, I’m a football fan. But I probably study, watch and appreciate the sport of football more than basketball. I’m not just going to make a sweeping statement or get caught up in the hype. But what I will say is, when he lines up every snap, he’s the closest player to Tom Brady in that division on every play. He’s the only guy in the NFL that can get the quarterback on his back and stop the run. He’s the only guy. Warren Sapp was able to do it, too. He was the other guy. I’m a Miami Hurricanes fan. I’ve been watching him since college. When we drafted Ndamukong Suh, I was not surprised. I followed him at Nebraska. I appreciated his mean streak on the field, and I’m an old enough football fan to understand that Tim Harris of the Green Bay Packers went out there with a “hit towel” with people’s numbers on it. I know about the Steel Curtain. I know about Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and the hand slap of Deacon Jones. So, Suh is that kind of football player that is going to create that kind of impact that’s going to make other guys have to come to the table and really ball on every possession and not be friendly. It’s kind of like what Pat Riley brought to the Miami Heat. He is that dude on the football field, and as a Detroit native and a Lions fan I hate to see him go. I love Haloti Ngata -- that’s another subject for another day. He’s a little bit older, but I’m not mad as a fan. But I will say this: Suh is now about to become a superstar.
Walker: Why do you think Suh’s profile will grow larger? Is he ready to take his game to the next level? Is Miami the right team and the right market?
Rose: All of the above. His bad-boy image in Detroit also got attached to his legacy in a negative way. Yes, he committed some dubious scenarios on the football field. The kicks, the stomps, throwing the quarterback down after the play was over. Yeah, he’s done that. But that’s the difference between him playing football and people like me being too scared to play football. When I’m the biggest guy out here, yeah, I’m going to throw my elbows every now and then. That’s just kind of how it goes. Now, that stage [in Miami], he’s going to shine on it. It’s going to be marquee games in that division, and in the AFC you get a chance to go against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and you see what the Jets are doing. So because of that, I really think when they start to talk about the top football players at any position, now he’s going to get that acclaim. This isn’t Albert Haynesworth. That was a bad signing and a bad deal. This is one of the top-10 football players in the whole NFL that you’re getting in his prime. And he’s durable. He shows up at practice and at every game. And he’s an every-down player, which in a league of specialties means a lot. Ask Cameron Wake what he thinks.
Walker: How about Suh away from the field?
Rose: I’m not at the point to call names. But I will say, because I’m really passionate about giving back to my hometown, there have been a lot of people, past and present, that have come through the city of Detroit and soaked up a lot of good fortune from the fans and getting a lot of hometown love and walking around with Detroit Tigers caps on, but not really giving back. Suh was one of the dudes that did. He showed up at my school [The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy] to give stuff to the students. He was driving his Range Rover after practice, in my old neighborhood, popped the trunk, gave me the stuff and I took it in the school. It wasn’t any hype. It wasn’t anything fake about it.
Walker: I met Suh’s parents and sister last week and was very impressed. How much do you think his family foundation plays a role?
Rose: He is so blessed. Because not only does he have the attributes as a person and as a football player, but, wow, he has an amazing family. I spent time with his mom and dad, and I know his sister, as well. They help drive the Ndamukong off the field, the Ndamukong in the community and the Ndamukong that’s on the Subway commercials. They help fuel that. A lot of times when that happens for athletes, it can be hit or miss. Because, while your family loves you, sometimes they may be in over their head. His family situation is laser-like in making decisions and making sure he’s where he needs to be, doing what he needs to do and saying what he’s supposed to say. On time when he needs to be on time, representing his last name, as well as the football team that he’s playing for on the field and in the community, as well as any player in the NFL. That is about to get discovered in Miami, and I’m a little bit mad that he’s leaving Detroit. I can’t lie to you. Because there’s a lot of people that come play for my hometown team, and I’m tweeting and texting and emailing and trying to get cats to give back and spend time with these kids and help me graduate these kids from high school and get them on to college. He was one dude that was really about it. The awesome thing I can say is what Miami is gaining with him on the defensive side of the football as an anchor, is exactly what the Detroit area is losing in the community -- and I’m not happy about that.
Walker: Finally, I have to sneak a basketball question. The Heat (29-36) currently have the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference just behind the eighth-seeded Charlotte Hornets (29-35). Will the Heat make the playoffs?
Rose: Is Erik Spoelstra still coaching? Then, yes. This is why when Miami loses LeBron, but let me tell you what Miami has. I don’t have to tell the great city and state, they know this better than me because they live there every day. They have Pat Riley. When you have Pat Riley and when you have Spo … I’m going to point out the two moves that only they pull off. One is Pat getting Goran Dragic. I’m going to give him that one. The other is Spo developing Hassan Whiteside out of nowhere. That only happens with a couple of teams. So Dwyane Wade, people are not paying attention, he’s one of the leaders in fourth-quarter points. He’s still playing when he’s healthy and putting his work in. Chris Bosh is like my little brother. I played with him in Toronto. I’m so happy to hear he’s able to play and resume basketball activities in a few months. So I definitely want to give a shout out to him and his family. I know them, as well. But, yes, even without LeBron James and in the Eastern Conference, Miami still will make the playoffs.