A few months later, Bosh is on the telephone from his Milwaukee hotel room. He still doesn’t have much to say. “I’m a simple dude playing in the NBA,” mumbles the second year pro. “I’m a regular guy. That’s all.” The forward is being modest. Since the Carter trade, he has played like an All-Star. Nobody should be surprised because Bosh has never been simple or regular.
It began in the working class neighborhood of South Dallas. The area was all inner city, mostly Black and Hispanic. As a youngster, Bosh excelled in math and basketball. Hours were spent breaking down both algebraic formulae in the classroom and defenses in the gymnasium.
By his senior year, a buzz started to come from Lincoln High School. Every college sent recruiters to the modest school on Oakland Avenue, hoping to catch a glimpse of the “big” that resembled Kevin Garnett. They saw the numbers: 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks per game. Most importantly, his team won the Texas championship and Bosh captured the state’s “Mr. Basketball” title.
The hype kept growing. At the McDonald’s High School All American game, Bosh impressed scouts with his long body and hit for 14 points. He also held it down on the international stage by leading the USA to a gold medal in the Global Games. In the finals, against Yugoslavia, Bosh outplayed New Jersey’s Nenad Krstic.
The NCAA was waiting for him. Bosh went to Georgia Tech and the expectations were huge. He didn’t disappoint. The young forward dominated the competitive ACC Conference and demonstrated that his skills had truly reached the next level. However, Bosh himself was a little more cautious about the NBA.
“I’M A PRODUCT OF THE SYSTEM. SO, I JUST ROLL WITH IT. I BELIEVE FIRMLY IN HELPING KIDS BECAUSE I KNOW AT ONE POINT IN TIME SOMEBODY HELPED ME. SO I JUST GO WITH THAT. I WENT TO ALL THE FREE SUMMER CAMPS, BASKETBALL CAMPS. THAT JUST MOTIVATES ME TO HELP OTHER KIDS.”
“Only about midway through year one did I know (about the draft). People kept talking about it. And it grew bigger and bigger as the year went on. I just put it to the back of my head. I never really changed my game trying to impress the scouts or anything. I just kept playing my game and word of mouth got better and better.”
That word of mouth led to David Stern calling his name in the 2003 draft. First round. Fourth overall. The Toronto Raptors had selected Bosh, after just one season at Georgia Tech, to come up north and patrol the paint. The shy kid from Texas thought he had it made. With Vince Carter and Antonio Davis, the Raptors were looking to build a winner, but it hasn’t worked out. The Toronto Raptors and Chris Bosh are still looking for that “happily ever after.”
Bosh’s first season was full of changes. Before the Raptors’ 2003-2004 training camp, Antonio Davis went public with his trade demands. “This is a business. No matter what happens,” explains Bosh. “Some guys have to be happy. And I learned that really early.” In December, Davis was traded to Chicago and then injuries set in. Toronto had to use 23 different players just to finish the season and ended up missing the playoffs.
Things were changing off the court too. Throughout the 2003-2004 season, there were rumors that the Raptors were going to clean house. On April Fools day, Toronto fired GM Glen Grunwald. Bosh’s rookie year got even crazier. Ownership spent the next two weeks trying to buy out coach Kevin O’Neill. They were unable to reach a financial settlement and O’Neill was let go after being on the job for only ten months.
Even this adversity couldn’t stop Bosh from having an extraordinary first season in the NBA. The numbers were impressive: 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. After the Davis trade, he stepped up and anchored the Raptors’ frontcourt. The league took notice, electing the forward to the All-Rookie First Team. Other first-year ballerz may have received more publicity, but that didn’t bother Bosh. “I stay to myself. I just stayed to myself then man,” recalls the star.
His best play was off the court. Right after being drafted, Bosh got involved in the Toronto community by creating a charity for kids. The Chris Bosh Foundation encourages children to pursue academic excellence. It offers after-school tutoring along with a book club. This is rare. Most NBA players would rather do three-to-five years hard time with the New Orleans Hornets or Atlanta Hawks than establish roots up in Canada.
However, Bosh has personal reasons for giving back and helping out children. “This is what I do. I’m a product of the system. So, I just roll with it. I believe firmly in helping kids because I know at one point in time somebody helped me. So I just go with that. I went to all the free summer camps, basketball camps. That just motivates me to help other kids.”
His second season in Toronto has been challenging. Alvin Williams’ knee injury prevented him from playing a single game. Rafer Alston couldn’t control his temper or shot selection. New GM Rob Babcock and rookie coach Sam Mitchell seemed out of sync. And then there’s the Carter saga. For 20 games, the guard pulled in “max” paychecks, while giving the Raptors less than “max” effort. The club eventually pawned “VC” off to the Nets for a package of players and draft picks. Bottom line: no post season for the Raptors.
Once again, Bosh was positive. After the Carter trade, he recorded nine straight double-doubles and looked like an All-Star at the “4” spot. In March, the twenty-year-old talked to reporters about their losses. “I have nothing to be ashamed about with my game or the organization,” he says.
The “T-dot” has grown on him. The forward loves Toronto’s multiculturalism, restaurants, and nightlife. “It’s different. But a good different,” he laughs. That’s also the perfect way to describe Chris Bosh. In a city that has dealt with the likes of Isiah Thomas, Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter, Chris Bosh isn’t simple or regular. He’s a good different.
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