With his NBA days in the rearview mirror, Chris Bosh is opening up about his 13-year career on the court.
Bosh, who will officially retire when the Miami Heat raise his No. 1 jersey to the rafters during a special ceremony next month, joined Bill Simmons’ podcast for an extensive chat earlier this week.
During the interview, the 11-time All-Star chimed in on a variety of topics — including what the Anthony Davis saga says about the league today — but Toronto Raptors fans will want to tune in around the seven-minute mark, for an interesting discussion about Bosh’s time up north.
While the Raptors’ struggles to reach any kind of playoff success during Bosh’s seven seasons with the club were well-documented, as was Bosh’s departure to Miami in free agency in the summer of 2010, Bosh opened up to Simmons about a particular moment that made it abundantly clear his time in Toronto was coming to an end:
“I remember John Salmons was a free agent and it was between us and Chicago. So I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK. Oh man, if we can get Johnny Salmons we’ll be pretty good,'” Bosh told Simmons. “And I guess you would call it recruiting, trying to get in touch with him and stuff, and he took less money to go to Chicago. And that’s kind of when I knew it was going to be a lot more difficult being in Toronto. So as soon as I could change my destiny and have an opportunity to explore other things, I was ready to do that.”
(As it turned out, Salmons would eventually wind up in Toronto for part of a season at the end of his career, in 2013-14.)
Bosh also spoke openly about why he feels the club has struggled to attract star talent, highlighting factors both on and off the court while drawing from his own personal experience.
“You think as a young guy, ‘Hey, if I work hard everybody else is going to work hard around me and we’re going to do this thing — this special thing,'” Bosh told Simmons of his time in Toronto. “And as hard as I was working, we were barely scratching the surface of the playoffs. I think we made the playoffs two years in a row and one of the years I thought we were pretty good, we were a .500 team.”
Bosh helped the Raptors to their first-ever first-place finish in the Atlantic after going 47-35 in 2006-07. That was his first taste of the playoffs, which was quickly cut short by the New Jersey Nets in Round 1. Bosh and the Raptors won just a single playoff game the following year in a first-round exit to the Orlando Magic.
“It was just that consistency of just kind of underachieving a little bit and really, quite frankly, not having any help. Free agents didn’t want to come. Therefore, we could only get so much better,” Bosh explained.
“It is what it is. I guess it just wasn’t as appealing,” Bosh said of Toronto as a free agent destination. “And even now, I don’t remember the last time Toronto got a big free agent signing — it’s usually been smart trades.”
The most recent example, of course, is the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard in last summer’s blockbuster deal with San Antonio that saw longtime Raptor DeMar DeRozan sent to the Spurs in return.
While he acknowledged the on-court product as a common deterrent for players turning down Toronto in the past, Bosh drew from his experience in Toronto to discuss some of the logistical challenges playing north of the border:
“It’s taxes and customs, and they don’t make it easy on you,” he explained. “Forgive me if I’m going off on customs — I love you guys, but man. We’d go in and out of the city a lot. It’s centrally located, so a lot of in-and-out flights. You’re going through customs every time. And we’re in the airport going through customs and that gets kind of old a little bit. They had to give us our boarding pass and tickets and we had to take off our shoes and laptops, and you now, we’re NBA players — we’ve got a lot of jewelry on. We’ve got a lot of stuff.
“Sam Mitchell was killing us one year. He made us have a business-casual dress code [laughs] so we’ve got big coats and belt buckles and shoes going through the thing,” he said. “I did the math one time: 26 hours in the airport. Over a season, 26 extra hours.”
Bosh, of course, went on to sign with Miami in 2010, one third of the Big Three that won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013 alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
While the now-retired star said he never expressed to Raptors management during his final years in Toronto that he wanted out — “I’m just going to ride it out,” he said of his mindset as he neared the end of his final three-year contract — he knew his time in Toronto was coming to an end, and hoped he could manage one last trip to the playoffs with the club.
“I wanted to try my best and I wanted to put it all on my back. That was one of the dreams I had as a kid. You watch [Michael] Jordan do it, you think it’s a little bit easier than it really is,” he said. “I was in the position, being the best player, perennial All-Star and all that stuff, but I was still watching the playoffs as soon as May. Like, May 1, it was a wrap. And [after] a while, you get kind of tired of watching guys that you’ve competed with your whole life, you want to compete against them on that stage. So not being able to experience that, it was very tough. And I mean the last year, I came in, I was a man on a mission. It just didn’t work out. I think numbers-wise, I had the best of my career but I just ran out of juice.”
Though the interview will perhaps leave Raptors fans reliving a dark time in Toronto, Bosh signed off by dropping a vote of confidence on the current edition of the club: he’s got the Raptors going to the Finals this year against Golden State.
Just, uh, maybe don’t listen to the final Finals prediction.