For most, traveling by chartered plane is a luxury, for some it is routine, and for fewer still it is an obsession. For the Memphis Tigers’ 2008 breakout point guard’s brother, Reggie, it was the latter. Unfortunately for John Calipari and UM, as far as the NCAA is concerned, that excuse doesn’t fly when it comes to violations.
Reggie Rose is a self described “aviation nut.” For as long as his mother Brenda Rose could remember, Reggie would always gaze toward the sky in awe whenever a plane passed over their South Side neighborhood on its way to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. While in K-6, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Reggie was sure to answer with “Airplane Man” and late “Pilot” when he learned that’s what it was called.
Basketball, and his excellence at it, was the key to many things in Reggie’s life. Along with his brothers, he helped mold his youngest brother Derrick into the NBA star point guard we know today. Sadly, stories of fame, it would be the opportunities presented by this hard work that would introduce Reggie to his demons.
From the Elite basketball camps, to the AAU tournaments, to the photoshoots for urban sports and lifestyle magazines, Derrick was needed “on location” throughout the world at an early age. Being the age of which most would still consider a child, he was always accompanied by an adult whom also had his trip paid in full, on all those airplanes.
Often times this would be Reggie’s role, and these flights would become all the more frequent as Derrick shot up the rankings and headed towards big time college basketball. By then, Reggie had a needed a regular “flight fix” and made sure to volunteer for as many trips as possible.
By the time Derrick decided to attend the University of Memphis, Reggie was in deep. From looking down at the ant-sized cars, to requesting the savvy and thirst quenching tomato juice to accompany his gratis bags of tiny pretzels, Reggie couldn’t get enough of flying. It was around this time, that it was all to be taken away from him, as he was just about to catch the flying dragon.
Reggie only had to wait nine months before he would have an excuse to fly for free alongside his brother again. But deep inside he knew, and his friends and family feared, that he wouldn’t make it that long. The first few grounded months were hard for Reggie, but he preserved.
His friends recounted that he would often head to the White Sox game only to find himself at Sears Tower. From the observation deck he would feel that long since familiar rush for only a second. He would squint to make the cars seemed ant-sized, but he couldn’t sustain it. “They only were goliath beetle-sized at best,” he told them. “My second favorite hobby is coleopterology,” he shrugged.
That’s when he bought the first costume. At the time, it would cost him only sixty dollars, but later, it would cost the two universities and their athletic departments much more than that.
When Reggie showed up at Derrick’s door just before the team bus left for the airport D-Rose played it off as a gag – The big brother pulling a fast one, coming down to convince Derrick would be flying the plane only to later reveal he’d been Punk’d. Derrick took it all in stride at first of course, to downplay the oddity of his family in front of his new teammates.
When the bus arrived at the airport however, Reggie was somehow no where to be found and Derrick was a little relieved that Coach Cal wouldn’t be reintroduced to his brother.
Later on that flight, a mustachioed man in the jump seat turned around and introduced himself as “Pilot Timothy Raines,” and proceeded to glad hand the entire team and staff. Derrick addressed him as such, and prayed he wouldn’t have to introduce him as his brother again until the NBA draft was over.
Reggie went through countless costumes (pilot, flight attendant, mechanic, long heavy box, Make-A-Wish kid) and White Sox pseudonyms that season. He would almost always get a double take from the players, but the coaches always seemed too busy breaking down game film and devoting selflessly long stretches of crucial time to various charity projects to notice.
It is estimated that Reggie Rose spend over $86,000 on costumes and disguises that season. He spend $3,000, alone, on a knock-off air marshall badge that said “Franklin Thomas” (a psuedonym he used four times that season). It was more than enough to travel to every game on a standard airline, much more than the $2,000 the NCAA is upset about. But it’s not enough to match the thrill of traveling in a chartered jet and feeling the respect given to be someone who helps it get up there.
Now Reggie Rose travels on private jets whenever he wants, Derrick Rose is in no danger (from the NCAA) of losing out any of his NBA millions, Memphis will have it’s entire 2008 season vacated and Final Four Banner taken down, Calipari will be destroyed by the media and rival fans, and John Wall’s former AAU coach has been given an official job by Kentucky.
Calipari’s learned his lesson from being punished because he couldn’t control Reggie’s actions and has created a new position in an exciting and emerging market for Wall’s former coach, Brian Clifton, and every other handler of his yearly top recruits from now on: Kentucky’s Head Emerging Market Region Basketball Scout: Middle of China.
Oddly enough, Calipari noted that if that position ever actually pays off with a top recruit in China, they’ll be moving it’s base of operations to a new market immediately.