Posted Jun 5 2011 10:11AM
DALLAS -- A native of this city, Chris Bosh grew up tall just minutes from American Airlines Center, but of course everyone is waiting to see how tall he is inside the building.
Such is the story of his basketball life, being played out coincidently in Dallas with a championship on the line. No matter what he does, no matter how many All-Star Games and USA Basketball teams he makes, Bosh feels outside pressure to prove himself.
"It's to the point," he said, "that I don't even pay it much mind anymore."
Bosh was taken to the woodshed by the basketball world once again after he was beaten by Dirk Nowitzki on the winning shot in Game 2. Forget that Bosh should've never been put in the uncomfortable position of checking Dirk alone. Forget that Udonis Haslem was late to offer help. Forget that LeBron James made only two baskets in the second half and blew a costly layup down the stretch.
Forget all that.
All that matters is Bosh was beaten on the play, and has shot poorly in the series so far, and hasn't hurt the Mavericks has much as he has the Heat. That's enough for the unflattering Bosh nicknames to come flying again: He's the lesser of the 2 ½ men; if LeBon James is Batman and Dwyane Wade is Robin then Bosh must be Batgirl (Chris Rock's wisecrack); he's the RuPaul of basketball (Shaq's crack); and so on.
Bosh has missed 18 of his last 22 shots, played passively near the rim and has 10 rebounds in the last six quarters of The Finals. And while his defense has been acceptable, the footage of him getting fooled by Dirk never seems to end.
About that play, Bosh has accepted blame and taken accountability.
"He got me," Bosh said. "I played him for the outside shot. I gave him a slight angle. I gave him an inch. All he needed was that one inch to get to the basket. I learned from it and moved on."
And about his play thus far in the series? Bosh comes clean about that, too.
"I just have to play basketball, the way I know it," said Bosh. "I'm putting too much pressure on myself. I just have to trust myself and my game."
For the most part this season and in these playoffs, he has. What folks forget is that Bosh is the third option, and for a third option, he's averaging 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds in the playoffs. At times, he carried the Heat while Dwyane Wade and LeBron James struggled. He has a high of 34 points in one game. Does two sloppy games in the Finals erase all of that? For Bosh, the rules are different, as they are for the Heat.
"It's not about fairness," he said, refusing to play the woe-is-me card. "Life's not fair. That's just the way it is for us. That's the way it's been for me. You get used to it."
He was born and raised south of Dallas, the edgy part of town, and benefitted greatly from having both of his parents under the same roof. They had rules and Bosh had to follow them. There were no other options.
The Bosh family also had no cable TV. Imagine growing up in a household with only the four major networks, plus PBS. (The Boshes did have indoor plumbing and electricity. In case you were wondering.) There was no reason to fight over the remote control when the only choices were "Wheel of Fortune" and "Masterpiece Theatre." It sounds so 1970s-ish.
"My parents will tell you it was a lifestyle decision," said Bosh. "The kids will say it was a financial decision."
He laughed. "We didn't miss much, anyway. We were outside playing."
Playing ball and avoiding the culture traps set by too much TV allowed Bosh to become a basketball player who speaks like a literature professor and has the cultural interests of a museum curator. Because this mixture sets him apart from the typical athlete, Bosh is an easy target for those who question his toughness. There are no tattoos on his arms, no swagger in his step, just Bosh being Bosh.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: "He's very intelligent and mature. He keeps an even keel, but don't mistake that for a lack of competitiveness."
Bosh: "I'm a simple dude, and my game is simple. The more I try to complicate it, the tougher I make it on myself."
The best news for Bosh and his teammates is they have another chance to atone for Game 2 and the collapse and the strategic mistakes in the final moments. If lessons were learned and Bosh decides to play not with a chip, but a two-by-four on his shoulder as a result, then Miami can return the favor to Dallas in Game 3.
Bosh knows what's at stake, knows how his reputation can either be helped or hurt by what happens next, and most of all, he knows how much he means to the Heat.
"I know I can play the game," he said, "and I know I'm capable of having big games."
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