Here's an instructive exercise: watch the sports world to see what its reaction to these Derrick Rose comments to HoopsHype about winning multiple championships are.
Time has passed since you won the MVP trophy award. What are your feelings about it now?
Rose: It was great but I’m not satisfied. I won’t be satisfied until I win a championship. I’m not satisfied at all. There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’m not going to win a championship. I’m going (to) win multiple championships. It’s not a doubt in my mind.
Specifically, see if anyone reacts as violently to that bit of presumption as much of the sporting public did to LeBron James telling the world his Heat would win "not five, not six, not seven" championships.
There are many differences between Rose and James at this point: James has been to the NBA Finals twice to Rose's zero trips, has won two MVPs to Rose's one, and has had to make a decision when faced with free agency that Rose hasn't faced yet. James was where Rose is, once, except instead of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng, he had Zydrunas Ilgauskas and ... er ... Drew Gooden, I guess.
(Oh, and Rose said "I'm going to win multiple championships"; LeBron said "We believe we can win multiple championships." That's definitely not a sign that Rose is a selfish player or person, right?)
But one thing both share, now and then? Confidence that winning rings is on the horizon. Matt Moore at Pro Basketball Talk points out that isn't unique to the two of them, either:
"Every great player in the NBA thinks they’re going to win multiple titles. It takes years for players to learn how valuable just getting one is."
I'd take it further: why wouldn't any professional athlete want multiple titles? Why not believe that you and your team are capable of winning it all? Wouldn't striving for the peak always give players the greatest motivation?
Criticizing athletes for wanting championships, wanting to be the greatest, wanting it all: that runs counter to the idea that athletes should be pushing the bounds of what we think is possible. But it will keep happening, as long as fans want both eye-popping play and aw-shucks demurring out of the players they root for.
To be an athlete in America in 2011 is to be cast into an arena before a crowd that wants two almost diametrically opposite things from you: greatness and humility. The trick is convincing fans that your pursuit of the former isn't in violation of your adherence to the latter.
LeBron couldn't pull that off — at least, he's yet to demonstrate that he's got enough of either quality to make up for a deficiency in the other. Rose, so great and so young, has more time before judgment is rendered and sufficient greatness, at this point, to excuse brimming confidence.
Just don't be surprised if he ends up where LeBron is someday.