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Michael Grange

Tale of a tall man's tattoo Add to ...

Chris Bosh has given Toronto Raptors fans an early Christmas present on the court, so far putting together the best individual season of his six-year NBA career.

Now, he's offering them something they can put under their tree: A DVD, released today, that includes a slick 30-minute documentary called First Ink , about his decision to get his first tattoo, as well as a collection of the comedy sketches - new and old - that have become a YouTube.com staple.

But even Bosh isn't clear where his artistic muse comes from. Although he's reached maturity on the floor - using his new-found bulk to average 24 points and 11.9 rebounds a game, putting him on pace for a career bests in each category heading into his free-agent year - off the court, the 25-year-old forward is still feeling things out.

"I'm my biggest critic. I'm kind of a perfectionist. Even in basketball someone will say, 'Good game,' and I'm like, 'Did you see it? That wasn't a good game.' I'm my own worst critic. I don't think the movie would ever be good enough for me," he said. "[But]as long as other people accept and like it, I'll be okay."

But dig a little deeper into why the Texas native would commit to filming himself getting a sprawling mural of his life - that stretches from the base of his spine, up his back and across his shoulders - and some hints emerge. There are scenes showing some of his father's remarkable artistic ability; just enough to suggest Bosh's desire to express himself off the court stems from a still-developing artistic voice he inherited, just like he inherited his height.

There are also some passing references to the trials and tribulations of the past year.

The Raptors underachieved in 2008-09 according to their own expectations and Bosh's performance seemed to plateau. Late in the season, a custody and child support battle with his former girlfriend made for some punishing headlines describing Bosh as a deadbeat dad, a sharp turn from his apparent clean cut, community-minded bend.

Bosh says he and the mother of his daughter, Trinity, have since worked out support and custody arrangements. The base of his tattoo, he says, is a small triangle that represents his daughter.

And while those scouring the DVD for insight about Bosh's state of mind during a tumultuous period will come up short, Trinity does make an appearance: in a photograph being held by Bosh in his apartment.

"[Being a father]makes you mature in a lot of different senses, because you see this little person that came from you and they look at you and don't know anything, but you're like, 'Man, I have to protect you, I have to teach you.' That's a weird feeling, a very strange feeling," Bosh said in an interview at a Toronto hotel last week, prior to the Raptors' Florida road swing, which kicks off tonight in Miami against the Heat.

"[Becoming a father]helped out with the whole thing and where I'm coming from [and]why I got a tattoo. It's about my life."

It's not about the future, or at least as it's relevant to Raptors fans. The opening of the DVD features Bosh and his friends rolling through Toronto at night with a hip-hop verse: "Rep T-Dot till they bury me" as the thudding accompaniment.

So Bosh is going to re-sign with the Raptors? Not necessarily. In the interview portion, he allows that he's flip-flopping madly on the big decision and will have to let it all play out, echoing his public comments on the issue.

The focus of the DVD is the documentary about Bosh's decision to get his first piece of body art done. And if it sometimes comes off as part puffy narcissism, part Miami Ink , the payoff offers some actual dramatic punch.

One summer day, he wakes up in his lakefront condo and it's the day he's about to get a massive, mural inked on his back. There's a march to the executioner's chair tension that comes off as understandably sincere.

"That made it real," said Bosh, who emphasized that the DVD project sprung from his urge to get a tattoo - which is still a work in progress - rather than the other way around.

"I was tense. They came in laughing and joking and I was like, 'Damn, I'm counting down the time.'"

The DVD's collection of skits show the lighter side Bosh is known for, though with uneven results. He's a better actor than the material he works with, but in the same way Bosh has demonstrated his determination to improve on the floor, he seems open to doing more multimedia work and getting better at that too.

"Basketball is aggression and passion, it's my outlet for that," he said. "That's when I get to scream and yell. But that's all you can do. You can't have a dream and try to capture it. Basketball is one dimensional. You can't express yourself through words or art in basketball, that much.

"[Doing a DVD]is fun for me," he said.

"People grasp it and you might as well do it while you're relevant. After I'm done playing no one will care. But now there's things that I do that people find interesting."

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