Wearing a throwback jersey, Rose looked more like the 2011 MVP than the player who has struggled in recent stints with the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers. He was released by the Jazz in February of last season after being traded by the Cavs, then he signed with the Wolves in March.
Asked what the 50-point game meant to him, Rose, wiping away tears, said, "Everything."
"I worked my ass off," he said in a postgame interview. "I did this for the franchise, the fans, the organization.
"I'm doing everything just to win, and tonight was a hell of a night."
Derailed by injuries for years, Rose walked off serenaded by chants of "MVP! MVP!'' from the home crowd. The 30-year-old point guard shot 19-of-31 from the field and hit four 3-pointers. He played 41 minutes, his most in nearly two years.
"He has courage, he has humility and he has character,'' said Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, who also coached Rose during his prime seasons with the Chicago Bulls. "He's been through a lot of adversity. He's maybe one of the most mentally tough people I've ever come across."
In 2015, Rose was accused of gang rape in 2015, but he and two others were found not liable in a civil trial. An appeal on that verdict will be held later this month.
Rose had 34 points in the second half and 15 in a tightly contested fourth quarter as the Wolves held off the Jazz.
His basket down low with 30 seconds remaining put Minnesota up for good, and he made two free throws with 13.8 seconds left to make it a three-point lead.
"He made a lot of plays, made some tough shots,'' Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We had some breakdowns, a little bit of everything.''
The Timberwolves were down two starters, including the discontented Jimmy Butler, and Rose was a floor general, guiding the team to the win.
"Most I ever talked to my teammates," he said.
Rose was mobbed by his fellow Wolves after the win and had to compose himself before he could take questions in an on-court interview.
Back in the locker room, excited teammates doused Rose in celebration.
One of his biggest shots was a corner 3 that tied the game at 119. That gave him 44 points, which matched his previous high set during the 2011 playoffs with the Bulls. His regular-season best had been 42 points.
Rose tied it at 110 with one of his patented layups, giving him 41 points. He weaved through traffic and made the off-balance shot, showing glimpses of the moves that once made him an elite player and the top pick in the 2008 NBA draft.
"He was feeling great, and when you start feeling great, you get some extra energy, you get some extra adrenaline and you make amazing plays," Utah center Rudy Gobert said. "And that's what he did the whole game.''
"To have the battles and battles with his injuries, to be able to come back ... for him to set a career high tonight in a win in Minnesota, I think that's unbelievable," James said of Rose. "I think every kid, you don't even have to play sports -- any kid that's going through anything in life about adversity and triumph and trying to just get over the hump, you can look at that performance by Derrick Rose tonight.
"That's why our game is so unbelievable, because even when a superhero's knocked down, he's still a superhero, and Derrick Rose showed why he's still a superhero."
"It's because so many people wrote him off because of injuries," Durant told ESPN. "So many people just stopped caring about what he can do on a basketball court because he had a few injuries and walked away from the team because he needed to get himself together. A lot of people had a lot of jokes about D-Rose, and obviously he's making them eat those words right now. So I'm happy about that.
"I'm sure that's not his goal, but for me as a fan, I'm happy to see that because I heard a lot of disrespectful things about D-Rose's game and I'm like, 'This guy can still do it.' So, to see him go out there and do that, it's amazing."
Given everything he has been through, it was a special night for Rose.
"It still didn't even hit me yet,'' Rose said. "Words can't explain how I feel right now. It's been a while.''
ESPN's Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.