Bosh's Evolution Continues With Record-Setting Night At ACC

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Mike Ulmer - raptors.com
January 3, 2010

TORONTO - Its official now. Chris Bosh is 'The Guy'.

We know Bosh became the Raptors all-time leading scorer in third quarter of the Raps 91-86 win over San Antonio. Just when a player becomes the dominant figure in the life of a franchise is a little tougher to define.

Over hundreds of nights, you look up and see the same guy as your clubs best player. You see him interviewed and listen to his measured but still playful tone.

You watch him evolve, watch the sapling gain 45 pounds over seven years and turn himself into a maple.

And yet

The Toronto Raptors are 15 years old. They have not enjoyed a litany of stars as have the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers or even the Spurs.

The franchise leader from 26 of the NBAs 30 teams have more points than Chris Bosh. The ease in which he has dominated the Raptor record book -- he set the rebound mark last year at 24 -- and the Raptors meager number of playoff performances would suggest Bosh was the best of a middling lot.

He has surpassed Vince Carter, Morris Peterson, Doug Christie, Antonio Davis and all the rest. Carter, of course, was the only true star. That leaves two, Bosh and Carter, who stayed for a significant time. You can argue, and some may, there wasnt much competition on the way to the top.

But managements inability to fashion a consistent winner is no indictment of Chris Bosh. To contemplate where the franchise would be without him through most of his tenure here is to stare into the great basketball abyss.

To be the best player on his team nearly every night requires a special talent. The basketball element is just part of it.

There is the despair of losing and the frustration of constant media demands. Being The Man means realizing as you come out of your sleep that tonight and every night, it all rides on you.

I think the hardest thing is you have to show up every night, said Raptors coach Jay Triano. He knows the ball is coming to him every single game. He knows he has to perform and if he doesnt, were all in a bit of a hole.

Its a lot of responsibility and expectations are very high, Bosh said. You raise the bar every year. You have to keep your performance up even though you are the main focal point of everybodys defensive schemes. People look to you for advice and to set an example both on and off the court.

So why do it?

There is nearly as much money in performing to 80 per cent of your potential as a complementary player. Bosh could have settled nicely for being a rebounding specialist, or a scorer unconcerned with cleaning up the boards.

It would have been much, much easier to defer to a brighter star.

Seems Chris Bosh isnt built that way.

The Raptors have played 35 games this season. Bosh has led the team in scoring in 27 of those games. He has also led the team in rebounding for 27 games.

This is the position you want to be in, he said. I always tell people when you were kids and youre in the backyard, youre the man taking the last shot, youre not the man in the corner giving a high five after the guy hits it. You think about being the best player on the court. Ive been really blessed to be a focal point and I think thats really cool. Its crazy that it happened but Im living the dream.

Hes not just living it. He went out and got it.

Bosh cultivated an arsenal in the low post and a perfected his midrange jumper. He learned the ins and outs of being a pro, including the fact that you break in your shoes at practice before you use them in a game. His mentor, Sam Mitchell, let Bosh absorb nights of fearful pounding, the better to toughen him for what was to come.

In his record-setting night, Bosh salted away the game with two clutch free throws with 11 seconds left. He finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Both were game-highs.

Bosh defends diligently. He is on pace for personal highs in every meaningful statistic. He is engaging, thoughtful and immensely likeable. The Texas kid who said little in his first few seasons has become a video impresario and internet celebrity.

When asked, teammates will present a litany of testimonials. So will opponents.

And yet

Maybe Chris Bosh matters because he removed the terrible ambivalence of being a Raptors fan. Carter who authored his own horrible departure from the franchise is now off the charts.

But he matters even more because he has been a constant, through 11 playoff games and three coaches. He matters because his presence gives Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan and everyone else room to play. The fact that he has done so much on his own only makes him, in a basketball sense, more heroic.

The great twist of the Chris Bosh story is that his constancy has been his calling card, even while speculation swirls on his playing destination next season.

What Chris Bosh has given the Raptors, of course, is a benchmark, a statistical one and something at least as important.

Chris Bosh has given the Raptors a standard that has little to do with his 9,428 points. Whether he stays or whether he plays somewhere else next year, the standard, the one he painstakingly assembled over seven years at Air Canada Centre, stays here.