Looking back at the game Derrick Rose went 'upstairs'

The Derrick Rose who took a pass from Tyrus Thomas in transition and burst down the floor in Phoenix on Jan. 22, 2010, was different from the D-Rose we know today. In his second NBA season and just 22 years old, Rose didn't have to worry about whether his knees would hold up for a full season. The slight 6-foot-3 guard played 78 games that season, in the middle of a three-year stretch in which he missed just six regular-season games.

That Derrick Rose, the reigning rookie of the year, was developing a reputation as one of the game's best young stars with elite quickness and explosive leaping ability.

And it was all on display that night in Phoenix in a moment that would live forever on YouTube.

After corralling the pass from Thomas on a break, Rose streaked to the basket with Suns guard Goran Dragic in pursuit. Rose leaped in the air as if he were bouncing on a pogo stick while Dragic tried to rise and get in his way. But Rose just kept going up and slammed the ball through with two hands, his momentum carrying him to a baseline landing spot.

"I just remember [Dragic] just jumping," Rose recently told ESPN.com. "That was about it. Jumping, and I was trying to do anything not to fall. Because I knew being up so high if something was to hit me in the wrong direction, then if you get hit wrong it could be a real serious injury with both of [us] in the air, so I was just trying to do anything not to get sideswiped out of the air."

Rose didn't get sideswiped. The closest he came to an injury on the play was almost hitting his head on the bottom of the backboard.

On the Bulls' bench, veteran Lindsey Hunter held his wide-eyed teammates back as they jumped out of their seats.

And on the local television broadcast of the game, former Bull-turned-analyst Stacey King might have been the most excited, unleashing a verbal celebration of the NBA's rising star that won't be forgotten by Bulls fans.

"Oh! Stop it! Stop it! Did not do him like that! What are you doing Dragic? Did you not get the memo? Derrick Rose can go upstairs! Whew! Oh! Oh my goodness! Watch this! I want to go higher! Oh my goodness! Dragic! Somebody grab Dragic and say, 'Do you know who this kid is? He is from Chicago. He has a 40-inch vertical. And you are ... ?' Where is my poster machine? This is what I need my poster machine [for]! Where's it at? Oh my goodness! Stop it!"

The Bulls play in Phoenix on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN), and King still gets excited talking about that dunk.

"It's almost like time stops," King said. "Because you know that you're witnessing -- you don't see that every day. You don't see that every day in the NBA and there's a lot of great dunkers in there. A lot of people who called Blake Griffin's games or even Russell Westbrook's, guys who do it on a regular basis. You still don't see dunks like that. You see individual dunks. Guys making spectacular plays without another body. But when you see somebody, especially Derrick's size, a guard, go upstairs with a 40-inch vertical. I don't know where he pulled it out [from], but wherever he got it, Dragic, he found it."

The guy who got dunked on also hasn't forgotten.

When ESPN.com recently approached Dragic and told him a story was being put together about Rose, the Miami Heat point guard didn't even need to listen to the rest of the question.

"The dunk on me?" he replied.

Dragic didn't think Rose was actually going to dunk it as he went to contest the play.

"I thought he was just going to lay it up," Dragic told ESPN.com. "It was a monster dunk. I can say that it was my first and last [time] that I've got dunked on. I learn from my mistakes (laughs). I didn't know a lot about D-Rose back then. I tried to make a play. I tried to contest it."

King, who is in the same role as Bulls analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago, is convinced that the dunk helped give all three men -- Rose, Dragic and himself -- even more notoriety.

"I think it put Derrick Rose on the map," King said. "I don't think -- if people [didn't] know about the athleticism about Derrick Rose, they found out that particular night. And I think Dragic found out, too, that Derrick Rose can go upstairs. He can really go upstairs. [It was] one of the most spectacular plays that I've ever seen."

Bulls forward Taj Gibson, a rookie during the 2009-10 season, was trailing the play and saw from a distance the emotion in the building after the dunk.

"The energy," Gibson said. "It was just the energy. Derrick, he was always quiet back then. So when he really dunked the ball and he yelled all in the guy's face, it was a sign of emotion. It was a great play."

"I think [the dunk] put Derrick Rose on the map. I don't think -- if people [didn't] know about the athleticism about Derrick Rose, they found out that particular night. And I think Dragic found out, too, that Derrick Rose can go upstairs. He can really go upstairs. [It was] one of the most spectacular plays that I've ever seen." Stacey King

After the game, Rose brushed off the play as his teammates still couldn't believe what they had just seen.

"I guess I got up pretty high," he said at the time.

What gets lost in the excitement of the dunk is that Rose had just played one of the better games of his young career. He had 32 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks in 44 minutes. When Rose finally made his way to the locker room after his postgame responsibilities were complete, his teammates gave him a rousing ovation as the doors closed.

"We was just happy for him," Gibson said. "Because when you get a dunk on somebody in this league, it's amazing. Because it's a lot of athletes and at the rate that he jumped on him, he kind of really just leapfrogged over him almost. And that takes a lot of power, it takes a lot of courage and a lot of strength."

Almost six years later, the arc of Rose's career has changed. Three knee surgeries have limited him to 100 games in the past three seasons. An elbow to the face in training camp fractured his left orbital bone, sidelining him for most of the preseason. He's still seeing double as he recovers, a condition that could last for months. He wears a mask to protect his face during games. And a sprained ankle suffered during a game against the Pacers on Monday might keep him out Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, he hasn't had a lot of luck with the injuries [since]," Dragic said. "But I think he's still got it. Maybe he's not so athletic as he was before, but he's still up there (raises his right hand above his head) where most of the people still cannot reach yet or get there."

Rose has acknowledged over time that his game and his mindset have changed because of all the physical setbacks. But the pride that carried him to become the youngest MVP in league history during the 2010-11 season was evident when asked if he could still get up today like he did over Dragic that night.

"I can dunk, yeah," Rose said. "I just choose not to no more."

But dunk to the point where you almost hit your head on the bottom of the backboard?

"I'm telling you I can dunk still," Rose said with a bit of a smile. "It's just that I got brighter. I got brighter."

King has had a front row seat to watch the change in Rose's game over the years, and he still sees his speed, but regaining his confidence is still a work in progress.

"A lot of people say he played reckless back then, like Allen Iverson," King said. "That he would go to the hole and didn't care about his body. I think now he has a perspective and an understanding of what he can and cannot do. And when he can take things to the hole strong and when he might need to make a pass. I think he's more concerned now with just staying on the court because the last couple years has been really, really traumatic for him.

"I don't think there's any player other than a guy like Brandon Roy that has gone through as much as Derrick has as far as injuries are concerned. You look at Brandon Roy, Brandon Roy was at the top of his game. [The experts] were talking about him more than they were talking about D-Wade [Dwyane Wade] when they were both playing. And he was an elite guard, All-Star guard and then the injuries kind of robbed him of everything.

"I don't think Derrick's in that same situation because Derrick, in my opinion, just watching Derrick come back, the speed is still there. I just think he has to get his confidence back to the point where he's back to doing those [things]. We've seen flashes this year, we saw it last year in the playoffs some, and I think it's just confidence. I think the more he plays the better he will get."

Rose doesn't like to go back in time and discuss the dunk, at least publicly, in part because Dragic endorses Adidas shoes now, just like him.

"I saw it so many times," Rose said of the replay. "But it's so over. He's actually a part of Adidas now. He's a part of the brotherhood, so I can't speak about it."

King has a sense of gratitude toward Rose for the dunk.

"I think that kind of made me famous," King said. "I think it got my catchphrases going. Because I was doing them before that, but I think once people heard that for the first time and saw the energy of that particular play, and I owe that all to Derrick Rose because you've got to have spectacular plays to be able to get that intense about a play and that was one of those plays, man. That was a game-changer."

King said the dunk -- and his exuberant TV call -- live on for Rose, his family and Bulls fans everywhere.

"He always laughs about it," King said of Rose. "He always laughs about it. His mom comes up to me, his brothers [say], 'That was the greatest call ever!' People who are around -- I hear that every day. It's like, 'Did Dragic get the memo yet?' I wish I had a nickel for every time I hear [people say], 'Derrick Rose goes upstairs!' Any part of that call. And it's on YouTube and it's got like, I don't know how many views, but it's got a lot of views.

"Sometimes I'll go back and look at it because when it happened, you really didn't appreciate as much until you see it on replay because the game happened so fast. So then when you see it on replay and you're able to slow it down, you see how athletic Derrick Rose was at that particular time in his career. He was at the apex of his athleticism and [for him] to do that, man, I was just happy to be there."

No matter how the careers of Rose and Dragic play out, King is certain of one thing when it comes to that night.

"[Dragic] got the memo," King said. "And I think he has nightmares about that dunk the rest of his career. I think anywhere he goes, I think people bring it up. 'Remember when Derrick Rose dunked on your head in Phoenix?' "

ESPN.com's Michael Wallace contributed to this story.