The best days of Chris Bosh’s basketball career were spent in Toronto. There’s no dispute.
But the most rewarding and memorable years of his basketball life?
The leading scorer, rebounder and arguably best player in the history of the Raptors franchise has had those in sunny Miami.
And the sad fact for Raptors fans are there are likely many more good times to come for Bosh in South Beach than there ever will for the fans of the franchise receding in his rearview mirror.
With Bosh in town Sunday as a key figure of the modern-day juggernaut that is the Miami Heat, its almost amusing — in a laugh-rather-than-cry kind of way — to think back on the angst his departure caused as he flew his well-padded nest with the Raptors in the summer of 2010.
He’s moved on. He’s got a six-year contract worth $110 million, a championship ring — likely more to come — and with the Heat extending their winning streak to 22 games with their business-like 108-91 dismantling of a game but over-matched Raptors club, a chance to make history.
One more win and the Heat will have the second-longest winning streak of all time. Twelve more and they’ll surpass the 33 consecutive victories managed by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
Regrets? Bosh doesn’t even pretend any more.
“No, none at all,” he said after an efficient 18-point afternoon at the ACC, the building he called home for the first seven years of his NBA career. “It wasn’t an easy decision at the time. It’s a life-changing thing, you’re leaving everything you know, but looking back on it was the right decision. I miss [Toronto], but it’s good to miss things.”
Oh, fans can’t forget. Maybe you can’t blame them. Being spurned hurts, and it’s only natural to wish that the person doing the spurning ends up in a worse place, eventually realizing the error of their ways. In this case, that’s just not going to happen.
Bosh was booed and jeered at every turn, as has been a tradition. He still hears the noise, which comes with varying degrees of vitriol, but now it’s just a handy way to feed a veteran’s furnace for an afternoon game against what would otherwise be a non-descript opponent.
The Raptors are going nowhere — at least in any noticeable way. The Heat are on a roll that could get them in conversations as one of the great teams of all time.
By coincidence, the Heat began their streak on Super Bowl Sunday against the Raptors. Rather than hustle out of town they stuck around and watched the game together in Toronto, reflective of a growing team chemistry.
For the Raptors former favourite son, extending the streak in the same place it started made for a handy personal bookend.
“I definitely don’t want to lose in Toronto, that’s for sure,” says Bosh. “Because they’ll never let me hear the end of it.”
Otherwise there’s no doubt that the city and the franchise are part of Bosh’s deep past now. His Toronto years are most relevant because those remarkable statistics — the 24 points and 10.8 rebounds on 51.8 per cent shooting line he put up in 2009-10 are numerical mountains approached only by early Vince Carter in Raptors history — in a losing effort have only served as a cautionary tale now that he’s got a penthouse in the NBA’s version of Shangri-La.
“It wasn’t too long ago there were a lot of tough seasons,” he says. “That’s helped me really appreciate this situation and helped me lace them up and go to work and keep my complaints to none.
“Everyone says they want to win and they’ll sacrifice, but when you have to actually do it? For one it’s not easy and you have to give up things you might not want to give up,” says Bosh, who has never approached the personal production with the Heat he achieved with the Raptors. “For me it was shots, touches and stuff like that. It was just stuff I had to deal with and if it give us a better shot at winning a title, I’m all for it.”
Toronto is a great place, even if it doesn’t have “the good cable” as Bosh ill-advisedly joked was one of the reasons he was happy to get out of here.
But the Raptors franchise as compared to the Heat? There’s no comparison. Bosh wasn’t really leaving behind Toronto when he left. There was no reason for that. He liked it here. He was leaving behind the Raptors and, based on how things have transpired in his absence, it was undoubtedly the right move.
One franchise is three years into a long-term strategy aimed at building a dynasty with Heat president Pat Riley’s vision and owner Mickey Arison’s money — Miami is slated to pay about $13 million in luxury tax this season. Next season, with the new CBA’s more punitive tax penalties coming into play, the Heat could be on the hook for a total salary and tax obligation of $141 million.
The Raptors have never paid a penny of tax and likely never will.
Meanwhile, Arison says the Heat aren’t a business, but a hobby and a passion. The Raptors don’t fall in that category for anyone who holds the team’s purse strings, which may explain why a championship vision is always blurred and the will to execute it has always been in short supply.
While Bosh and the Heat are trying to make history, the Raptors are trying to sell one of the most dedicated fan bases in the NBA on the merits of transitioning from the Andrea Bargnani era to the Rudy Gay era.
Who knows? With fingers crossed in the next year or two, if things all come together, they might be good enough to lose to the Heat in the second-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. This would be considered a success given that Toronto is heading for its fifth straight season without a playoff appearance.
Meanwhile the Heat are a championship organization. Bosh is now a smaller piece of something much bigger than he was ever part of in Toronto. With the game still hanging in the balance Sunday, Bosh was joined on the floor by James, Wade, Ray Allen and — all first-ballot hall-of-famers — along with uber-role player Shane Battier.
There was more top quality support ready on the bench. The Raptors had no answer and the Heat romped away with it; stark proof of how far the Raptors are from ever being a team that contends with one of that status.
Still the crowd at the ACC took their frustrations out on Bosh.
“There you go Chris, take a walk buddy,” shouted one leather lung as he strode back to the Heat bench during a timeout. “Take a walk right back to Miami.”
The anger is misplaced. Three years after leaving the Raptors, Bosh is on his way into the NBA history books, quite possibly the Hall of Fame, and with a good chance at having a pocketful of championship rings jingling in his pocket.
A championship ring, can you imagine?
Maybe one day, when his career is over, he’ll be nice enough to come back to Toronto and show Raptors fans what one looks like.