Chris Bosh slouched in a chair scribbling hundreds of signatures, standard mid-week fare for one of the three kings of the NBA's Miami Heat. His weary demeanour seemed curiously unlike the confident star in the posters and glossy photos being placed, conveyer-belt style, under his left hand.
Less than three weeks into the season, the Heat are the despised New York Yankees of the NBA, and of the superstar trio that includes LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh had been the most criticized of all. His stats are down across the board; he's admitted to feeling "a bit lost" as he adjusts to his new role. Some pundits have dubbed him too soft, too unproven, to be held up beside James and Wade. Even a security guard at the Heat's home American Airlines Arena said, "He had better turn it on soon," glancing at his watch.
While extra scrutiny was part of the bargain when he left Toronto this summer, Bosh says the vitriol he and his teammates now face has been "surprising." Last week, the 6-foot-11 forward called a Toronto radio station and took offence to a newspaper column that Bosh says took his quotes out of context to suggest he left Toronto because he craved more time on television.
On the eve of Thursday night's showdown between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, and days before he will face his former teammates in Miami, Bosh spoke with The Globe and Mail as he autographed 650 items of Heat paraphernalia -- from jerseys to basketballs to a guitar -- destined for season ticket holders and business honchos. Here he discusses the Heat haters, humble pie and feeling like Toronto's ex-boyfriend.
Q: Why did you care enough to call the Fan 590?
For one, I don't really like when people try to make it seem like you said something that you didn't say in that context. You know, I'm sensitive to everybody's feelings...I mean, the comment was totally absurd. I mean, saying that the TV was the bottom line. That's the dumbest crap I've ever heard. They don't even know the consequences that come with being on this team.
I've clearly stated that my main motive was to win. That was it. There was no other agenda.
Q: What do you mean when you say consequences?
Attention. I don't know if you noticed, but we're not the most liked team in the NBA. So that's part of the consequence. And we can't do much about it except play hard.
Q: Why do you still care about what people in Toronto think about you?
I played there for seven years. You know what I mean? I care what people think about me. Period. Especially if somebody's trying to taint you in the wrong way, saying that you just do stuff for attention. That's not cool.
Q: Who do you talk to when you're feeling frustrated?
My friends, my fiancé, and my family. Just have some good talks. I'm more comfortable talking to people that I'm really familiar with. So I don't go to the bar or anything and spill my guts to a stranger. I just talk to my family. And I'm able to be really honest with them.
Q: There was someone, a Fox Sports columnist [Jason Whitlock] who wrote recently that the Heat may want to consider trading you. Are you aware of these things when people say them?
Nah, I don't really watch those things. Everybody's entitled to their opinion, and everybody has an opinion. There's sayings for opinions that my dad used to tell me all the time.
Q: What's that?
I can't say it. [laughs]You know, opinions are like such and such. Everybody has one. You know what I mean? It's like .. somebody on Fox News. C'mon, you're not a general manager. Does that make you a credible source that you can write an article saying that I should be traded? Like, why? You know what I mean? For what?
Q: Just getting back to [a comment you made earlier this week]about feeling a little lost on the court. What explains your stats being down at the moment?
Scoring. It's obvious. Because I had the ball in my hands a lot more in Toronto. That makes a difference. It is what it is. I was willing to take that sacrifice when I came here. And just getting used to the defence, and patience and stuff. I just have to be more aggressive on the rebounds, and the reason that I haven't been rebounding the way I do is I've just been trying to figure things out, instead of just playing aggressive basketball. I was thinking too much.
Q: How do you stop that?
Just play aggressive. That's really all it's about. If I make mistakes being aggressive, that's fine. At first I was like, man, where am I going to get my shots? Then it's like man, just play basketball, get to the open spot and play basketball.
Q: You put out a Tweet a while back about learning a lot about yourself this summer. What did you learn?
Where do we start? Just how I react in different situations. I remember before I signed with Miami, it was: He's one of the biggest free agents in this great class. But as soon as I come here, ah, he's a third wheel. [laughs]
It's like, Dang. Now one minute, I was considered a really highly touted free agent. Now, I'm nobody because I came here. Do we forget what was said or written months ago? It's no big deal. but you just learn stuff about your self from stuff like that. It used to make me mad, but I had to learn not to be mad at this stuff.
Q: Well, you just signed about 500 things. I don't know if that makes you a third wheel.
Yeah, I guess. Not the first, wont' be the last.
Q: What was the most important lesson of all?
Learning you don't know everything. Eat a little bit of that humble pie, and just recognize situations. Like if you're presented the same situation, you'll be better next time. It's just all a part of growing up.
Q: Is there anything you would do differently?
Differently? Not at all. Because I mean, if I do things differently, I wouldn't be the person I am today, and I like who I am today. I like my life right now. I have awesome surroundings. I'm in Miami, I'm a lucky dude. I have a beautiful fiancé.
Q: What do you think your reception will be like in Toronto?
I don't know what to expect. I know some people out there, they're not going to be as warm and welcoming as others.
Q: You were around when guys like Vince Carter got booed.
Everybody was upset with the people in the past because of the context that they left. I left differently. I chose to leave. I chose to go separate ways. But that's just like having an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend. You can't be friends. You got to move on to something else. I don't have one bad thing to say about Toronto. I wouldn't change a thing.
Q: Just the way you're talking, it sounds like this is heavy. But maybe it's just having to sign a thousand things and answer a thousand questions. But, are you feeling down?
It's just a lot. It's just a lot to process. It's a lot of ups and downs. There's always the perception that we're not human. That athletes aren't human. We're not just these emotionless people that just go out here and we have a bunch of money and just care about basketball, and we just magically appear and are good at what we do. Nah, we put in work for this. We put in work all year, all day...and when you work that hard and it's still just some choice language from people, it's like dang, all I do is just work hard and try to provide for my family. I just want to win just like anybody else.
Q: Last thing. Is there anything I forgot to ask, something you want people to know?
Ah...I miss Toronto. We always joke and laugh about the good times we had there, me and my friends. It's good to miss something. If I didn't miss it, that mean I didn't have a good time.
NOTE: this interview has been edited and condensed.