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8 min read

Don’t Go, Chris

With the news of a third blood clot forming, the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh seems that much closer to being done as an NBA player. On September 26th, Heat president Pat Riley informed the crowd at Miami’s media day that the Heat “are not working toward his [Bosh] return”. This means that despite Bosh’s assertions that he isn’t done, any possible come back will not be with the Miami Heat.

On a personal level as a Toronto Raptors fan who watched Damon Stoudamire as a child and fell in love with the sport and the franchise, the past two years of Bosh’s career have been incredibly hard to stomach. That’s because before Bosh went over to Miami and formed the “Big 3” with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Bosh was Toronto’s franchise player during the team’s most turbulent years. In Toronto, he was CB4 and that’s who he will always be to me.

Backtracking all the way to the 2003 draft, the Raptors found themselves in a tough spot. Vince Carter, the man who had put the franchise on the NBA map, was discontent with the team’s roster and wasn’t making many efforts to hide it. He wanted out as soon as possible. Knowing they would soon need a replacement superstar, the Raptors nabbed Bosh out of Georgia Tech. Then a lanky and talented prospect, Bosh would soon have the spotlight trusted upon him whether he wanted it or not.

Thankfully for Bosh’s development as a player, Carter held on for a full season with Bosh. Being able to play his rookie year without all the attention turned towards him had to be a bit of a relief for a 20 year old still trying to find himself as a basketball player. In Bosh’s second year, Carter was sent to the New Jersey Nets in a lackluster trade and the young man took over as the face of the franchise.

Throughout the years, it was something Bosh recognized and handled with class and determination. Bosh improved himself every seson as part of the Raptors organization and made his name known as one of the best power forwards in the game. He could play down low with the best of them but where he really shone was with his face up game, using his speed to blow by bulkier defenders and with his ability to hit mid-range jumpers. 

Despite being stuck on some pretty poor rosters, Bosh climbed up the Toronto record books. By the time he was moving onto Miami, Bosh had the most points, rebounds, blocks, field goal and free throws made and minutes played in franchise history. On five occasions, Bosh represented the Raptors in the all-star game and in 2007; he made the All-NBA 2nd team. Without a doubt, during his tenure with Toronto, Bosh lived up to his billing as a franchise player.

I could go on and on about the numbers Bosh put up but he will always mean so much more than that to me. While I may have been hooked in by Stoudamire and marveled at what VC did to our understanding of gravity, I grew up with CB4.  I was turning 15 when he was drafted and by the time he was gone, I would be 21. For seven seasons I watched as Bosh went to war with the likes of Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard with little to no backup and he still gave it his all. 

While Toronto may be recognized as a world class basketball city in 2016 it wasn’t always that way. Carter left with a sour taste in his mouth and the franchise’s only real superstar suddenly had nothing good to say about the city. Bosh was Toronto’s remedy. He adopted living in Canada better than any other big name ever had. During his off days, CB4 would make funny videos and post them to his website while also the time to interact with his fans on his forums. The forums on which yours truly spent hours when he really should have been doing his physics homework. 

When Bosh would complain that he wasn’t getting proper billing as a big name NBA star, we stood beside him. He was standing up for the little guy and we had never had anyone really do that for us. Bosh knew that Toronto was a great city to live in and felt slighted when ESPN and the other American outlets would completely ignore both the city and the player when talking about the NBA.

For the majority of his time as a Raptor, Bosh’s best teammates were the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, TJ Ford, Anthony Parker and Morris Peterson. Most of those guys are solid players to have as your 3rd or 4th best options but they weren’t exactly a murderer’s row of ideal second bananas. Despite this, Bosh got Toronto into the playoff on two separate occasions including one showdown against Carter and his new team. While those playoff matchups may not have gone the way the fans would have liked, without Bosh the Raptors are looking at almost 15 years between playoff appearances.

One of the most poignant memories I will always have of CB4 was during game four of Toronto’s 2008 series against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. At home, down 2-1, Bosh came out and dropped 39 points on arguably the best defender in the NBA. In what is a perfect microcosm of Bosh’s career as a Raptor, he was the only one to show up; Orlando won the game and went on to finish off the series in five games. That would be the last time Toronto saw their guy suit up for them in the playoffs.

When it happened, when the Big 3 was formed, a lot of Raptors fans were angry. Once again, another superstar was leaving the city for greener pastures. Once again the team would have to rebuild itself from the ground up. I wasn’t one of those fans. What people fail to realize is that Bosh was stuck with an incompetent management group. These were the same people that tried to match him up with a guy like Jermaine O’Neal only to trade him halfway through their first season together when it wasn’t working. They would continually talk about getting Bosh help and then would turn around and leave him with the same terrible roster. After a certain point, one man could only take so much. Bosh was essentially forced to leave or spend a career anchoring some terrible teams only to later be remembered as another Shareef Abdur Rahim. How can you blame a guy for taking a chance at basketball immortality rather than toiling away as a pretender for his entire career?

Seeing him become the punching bag during that first year of Miami’s Big 3 was frustrating. Here was a world class player who had swallowed his ego and agreed to become a 3rd option and yet fans and pundits alike were hounding him for not putting up the numbers he did in Toronto. Bosh was the team’s best help defender, he gave them rebounds and even stretched his game out to the perimeter but no one cared. If Miami’s experiment was failing it was because Bosh wasn’t delivering enough. That all culminated into him becoming a laughingstock when the cameras caught him crying after the Heat had lost the championship to the Dallas Mavericks. 

For a lot of us, that sort of outside pressure would have made it easy to fold. Pack our things up and go home, we tried our best. For Bosh, it only served as more fuel to his fire. He came back even sharper in year two as a Heat. His shot was more precise, his defense even tighter. Now he knew when to assert himself and when to fade back in the background to wait for that LeBron pass to come to him. In the end, the tough times did not last and Bosh became a two time NBA champion. Everyone remembers Ray Allen’s shot in game six of their second championship against the Spurs but fewer remember the man who grabbed the key offensive rebound to set that shot up. Here’s a hint, it was Chris Bosh, a man who was once accustomed to getting buckets had learned how to set them up too.

In recent years, the Raptors have found success. Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan have lifted Toronto out of years of mediocrity. Just last season, the Raptors made their first conference final, taking the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers to six games. In DeRozan’s rookie season, he got to learn from Bosh what it meant to lead a team. Without that kind of influence it’s unlikely that DeRozan becomes the locker room presence that he is today. Without Bosh’s time with the Raptors organization, there is no current success. He was an important building block that hopefully no one will forget. As I enjoy the success that my favorite team has been having recently, I can’t help but think it would be that much sweeter if Bosh were still around for the ride. 

I grew up with you Chris Bosh and I love you. Thank you for the countless memories I share with my friends and family. One day, hopefully soon, your number will hang up in the rafters at the Air Canada Center. CB4 always and forever.

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