February 18, 2022, on

Never break. DeMar DeRozan’s father used to say those two words, again and again, as his son was growing up in Compton, California.

Many times, DeMar came close. Close to unraveling, close to shutting down. He couldn’t trust many people around him. As soon as he got attached to someone, they would disappear. Uncles, friends, classmates. He would come to school, see an empty desk that remained unfilled for days, and nothing more needed to be said. Gunshots, gangs, and funerals haunted his neighborhood. He almost became numb to the violence, the possibility of death. Every time he left his house, he knew he might not return. He understood, as his mother, Diane, puts it, “You’re here today, and maybe gone tomorrow. You have to make the best of it.”

Loss was the rhythm of his life, but he’d dream up new melodies. “Having an imagination, thinking I was Michael Jordan, in the middle of Compton,” DeMar says. As soon as he shut his eyes, he’d retreat to a happier place. One where his home, which had little furniture and no fridge or cable TV, had transformed into the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls. Thousands of fans were screaming his name. Little DeMar became Michael, clutching an imaginary ball, releasing a fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired. He’d hold his follow through, sticking his tongue out as his tiny body fell back onto his bed.

Now DeRozan is draining those game-winners for Chicago in his first season with the Bulls. The 32-year-old is playing the best basketball of his career and was just named to his fifth All-Star team, his third as a starter. With 38 points in a win over the Kings on Wednesday, he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain to become the first player in NBA history to score 35 points or more in seven straight games while shooting above 50 percent. His magnificent play has revitalized the Bulls, who at 38-21 sit in first place in the East, leading to even some outside MVP consideration. It’s a phenomenal turn of events for a veteran who has continuously reinvented himself in recent years, from a player once viewed as a one-dimensional leaper into a dynamic playmaker and leader. (READ FULL STORY HERE).