Q&A: Former Heat star Bosh finds new challenge as esports exec

Q&A: Former Heat star Bosh finds new challenge as esports exec

Sekou Smith

Sekou Smith

Dwyane Wade is three games into his farewell tour with the Miami Heat.

LeBron James is two games into his latest adventure — you may have heard about it — with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Chris Bosh, the third member of the Heats pioneering Heatles trio of the early 2010s, has not played in the NBA since February of 2016 due to a blood clotting condition that the NBA has ruled a career-ending illness. But he has a new team of his own as well.

Bosh is diving into esports arena, taking on the role of Player Management Advisor with Gen.G, cultivating a player development program for the global esports and entertainment outfit.

Bosh said the talents and skills necessary to be successful in this endeavor are closely aligned with the talents and skills he sharpened over the years from his time as a high school All-American in Dallas to his standout season at Georgia Tech and, finally, to his championship NBA and international career.

An 11-time NBA All-Star and two-time champion with the Heat, Bosh, 34, reflects on his new role with Gen.G, how a life competing at the highest level in basketball prepared him for what comes next, the impact the groundbreaking moves made by the Heat’s Big 3 had on the NBA landscape and beyond with NBA.com’s Sekou Smith.

* * *

Sekou Smith: Former Lakers standout Rick Fox was one of the first former NBA players to go all-in on the gaming world. What is it about esports that speaks to the interest and talents of guys such as yourself?

Chris Bosh: I think the team concept. People are going to be competing on a worldwide basis. And you are competing to be the best at something. That definitely speaks to guys in the NBA because it’s such a small fraternity and we understand how hard it is to get there and how hard it is to maintain. I mean, Rick Fox being a champion and an actor at the same time, he had a different understanding of things. He understands teamwork on a championship level. He understands it on a really bad level, when you are a part of teams that aren’t great, and then again he understands it on a great level because he’s been to there. It’s the same for me. We understand things from top to bottom. We can lend a level of expertise in this young industry. And it’s important.

It’s truly going to be a worldwide sport. And it’s only going to get bigger the more connected the world is and the faster the internet gets. And I think it’s going to be a phenomenon that only continues to grow and we’re going to look back at it in five or 10 years and be like, ‘man, I remember when nobody even knew about esports. And now everybody is going to aspire to be a part of that.’

SS: Is that something that, at this stage of your life, you look back and realize is not normal the fact that you’ve been training to compete on the biggest stage since you were probably in middle school?

CB: Absolutely. I do kind of marvel at my journey. But at the same time, I look back at a lot of the steps, and maybe not every step, but a lot of the steps, and since I was 12 or 13, I look at the people who helped me and the moments that were inspirational to me and you can recall what my mindset and what my make-up was at that time to try and be the best. And making that decision with myself to really go for it, in whatever I was doing. So, it’s one of those things where I’ve always been very passionate about teamwork and team building. And yeah, I remember how it’s made me feel and how I’ve triumphed over different situations and it helped me get to this point now.

And that’s one of the main things that I try to implore young people to — video games, basketball, football, lawyer, doctor — anything you want to do or be, you’ve got to make a decision or a choice to be the best. And you’ve got to work at it. You’ve got to go for it. And you know what? You’re going to fail and you’re going to come up short at times, and you have to do it for a very long time, you have to be committed to calling yourself the best. You have to be ready to compete. Because lots of people dream that dream, to be the best at something. But are you ready to commit to the hard work that it takes to get there? For me, it just became a part of my life and it was what it was. Another day, another basketball practice or another game. And it’s just more work. It’s always about the work.

I am surprised at the speed and the 3-point shooting, of course. … But I’m more surprised by the pace of the games than I am anything. That’s the main thing I’m looking at now. I’m like, ‘whoa, these dudes are flying.’ “

Chris Bosh, on changes to the NBA game

SS: When you’ve competed on the stage that you have, from being a state champion and McDonald’s All-American and college star and top five NBA Draft pick, is it really difficult at this stage of your life to find anything else that pushes that same button … the competitive fire button that gets the adrenaline flowing and satisfies that hunger for elite-level competitiveness?

CB: Well, you know what, I’ve just kind of left it where it is. Unless I’m competing at something, I don’t worry about it, trying to fill the void or match that feeling I had. But it is tough. And it is very hard. That’s why I make it a point to try not to pay attention to it or to try and fill the void. Because you can’t. It’s impossible and it won’t happen. The NBA is the best league in the world. It’s no way you’re going to be able to fill the void that the energy of performing before 20,000 people every night gives you. That’s just impossible. So, I just try and move on from that and let it be a moment in time and leave it alone. I don’t look for that to fulfill me and I’m moving on to different things. Now that’s … if I do play again, I’m not going to say hey, ‘I’m this player that I was.’ I’m going to be a totally different player in a totally different situation and bring all those experiences with me. But looking to fill voids, it’s one of those bottomless pits, man. It’s not a ghost I’m interested in chasing.

SS: Clearly, you still look at the league from your unique perspective and still pay close attention to the game. Are you surprised at all at just how radically the game has changed schematically since you, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and that celebrated draft class of 2003 first hit the scene?

CB: Yeah, I’m surprised but I’m not surprised. I am surprised at the speed and the 3-point shooting, of course. I’m with the 3-point shooting, as you know. Not all [threes] are good [threes]. But I’m more surprised by the pace of the games than I am anything. That’s the main thing I’m looking at now. I’m like, ‘whoa, these dudes are flying.’ The game has gotten a lot faster. I was anticipating changes as far back as when I first game into the league, when the spacing was changing and big guys were playing in different spaces on the floor. But when that change actually happens, and it happens so quickly, it’s just amazing. Everyone has to have the skills now, everybody is switching everything now, everybody is going to the Warriors now [laughing] … it’s just different.

SS: You, LeBron and D-Wade took so much grief for teaming up in Miami. And now it’s like everybody wants to pair up and make sure they go somewhere with other superstars and chase the dream.

CB: Yeah, everybody is getting smarter.

That’s why I make it a point to try not to pay attention to it or to try and fill the void. Because you can’t. It’s impossible and it won’t happen.”

Bosh, on trying to fill the competitive void in his life after his playing days

SS: Do you think, in terms of eras and the way the game is viewed, you are the guys who ushered in a new era in terms of players recognizing their true power and exercising that in free agency or whatever way they can?

CB: I think so, yeah. I mean, we definitely thought outside the box a bit. And that’s what kind of changed the whole landscape, because it was moreso a situation where, ‘hey, I’m going to lock into this and that’s going to be it because that’s how you do it.’ And it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. You can make your own decisions. So that’s really the event or thing that started this whole narrative. There will be a day when we’re able to look back on those moments and say, ‘oh remember this or remember that.’ And that’s why we’re here in this day with the modern athlete.

* * *

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.