Hall of Fame: Class of 2021

Unique focus carried Chris Bosh into Hall of Fame

With a pair of championship rings and 11 All-Star berths, Chris Bosh was one of the most decorated power forwards of his era.

Michael C. Wright

Michael C. Wright

Chris Bosh enjoyed his greatest success in Miami, where he helped the Heat to consecutive championships in 2012 and 2013.

At Daddy Jack Records, it’s chords that breathe life into Chris Bosh’s new world.

So, he grabs a guitar and strums slowly; E.T.-length fingers, smoothly laying the rudimentary roadmap to destinations unimaginable.

“Sometimes, I even hear a melody, too,” Bosh said. “But you start with this thing, not that it will be the main thing that you hear. But start with the main idea, and usually the chords tell you which lanes to stay in, and which box to stay in at the same time. Once I start with the chords and find something I like, I go from there.”

Bosh arrived in this place through working with top-notch songwriters and listening to words of wisdom shared by “great artists and great people at their professions.”

It’s nothing new, really.

See, in music — AKA, life after basketball for Bosh — the No. 4 pick of the 2003 draft follows the same step-by-step blueprint he executed during a 13-year career that led to two titles with the Miami Heat, 11 All-Star selections and an Olympic gold medal. Bosh’s hoops journey culminates with Saturday’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where he’ll be joined by Rick Adelman, Yolanda Griffith, Lauren Jackson, Paul Pierce, Bill Russell (coach), Ben Wallace, Chris Webber and Jay Wright.

Talk to enough people, and you can quickly identify the route Bosh trekked on the journey to hoops immortality.

“At a young age, it just seemed like he knew what he wanted, and he knew how to go about it,” said Leonard Bishop, Bosh’s high school coach at Dallas Lincoln High School, where the forward helped the Tigers run off a record of 40-0 as a senior in 2002 on the way to state and national championships. “It’s hindsight now, but he was just very intelligent and disciplined.”

Bosh’s younger brother, Joel, described his older sibling as “a nerdy kind of geek” that was “always trying to learn something, always trying to read something.”

Most importantly, Bosh always tried to win, no matter the sacrifices required, even if it meant subjugating his own ego in the process.

“I think he kept this attitude throughout his basketball career,” said Paul Hewitt, Bosh’s former college coach at Georgia Tech and now head coach of LA Clippers’ G League affiliate. “His intentions around the game of basketball were always so pure. It was about competing. It was about getting better. It was about winning. Those were the only things that mattered to him. He didn’t worry about looking cool. This is a guy that whatever he puts his mind to, he’s been able to accomplish it.”

That brings us back to the music, where Bosh leans on lessons learned from 893 career regular-season games in the NBA with 881 starts that include a career scoring average of 19.2 points while shooting 49.4% from the floor, 33.5% from 3-point range and 79.9% from the free-throw line.

Bosh easily connects the beats he makes with the shots he used to take. He’ll find success in music production in the same meticulous way he picked apart opponents on the hardwood.

Chris Bosh reflects on his championship-winning career with the Heat.

“[Basketball] has given me really the confidence to move on into something else,” he said. “As far as music production, being the best producer I can be, I know the ethics as far as working hard, coming back, getting better sharpening your game and emulating the greats. I bring those same fundamentals and those same principles to music production.”

‘Humble beginnings’ for Bosh

Before Bosh achieved NBA stardom, he shared a bed with his little brother until Joel was 6, and then a bedroom in a three-bedroom, one-bath home in Hutchins, Texas with parents Noel and Frieda Bosh.

Their paternal grandmother, Aline DeJewel Dibbles Bosh, lived next door with “Daddy Jack” Bosh. In fact, they owned multiple houses in the neighborhood, and rented them out to relatives. Cousins Lisa and Eldon Hearn lived next door to Aline and Jack Bosh. A great uncle, who spent years as a crossing guard at Hutchins Elementary, lived on the opposite end of the street, while their aunt, Myrtle Dibbles resided a street over.

The Bosh boys couldn’t help but stay out of trouble with so many relatives nearby.

Their father, Noel, served as youth minister at South Central Church of Christ in Joppa (pronounced by locals as “Joppee”), Texas, teaching Sunday school and leading song service at the church.

When they weren’t destroying their closet door playing Nerf ball, the boys cut grass, washed Aline’s car for $5 and a meal or picked pecans to sell at the local market.

“Humble beginnings, man,” said Joel Bosh, who played basketball at Alabama State and spent time on the Toronto Raptors’ 2009 Summer League squad.  “We weren’t spoiled with all the (expletive) Jordans, basketball jerseys and all of that. That just kept us realistic about working hard because we were never really given anything. Even just getting good grades, you knew you had to work for those, and all of that played a huge role in who Chris is.”

While Bosh played some football growing up, and even pitched on the baseball team, basketball is where he found his calling at Kennedy-Curry Middle School.

The coaches at Dallas Lincoln quickly took notice of the nearly 6-foot eighth grader.

Bishop landed the head coaching job at Dallas Lincoln during Bosh’s sophomore year, and the coach’s son, teammate Leonard Bishop Jr., remembers the Hall of Famer’s addiction to SLAM magazine. Bishop Jr. and Bosh took an art class together as part of the magnet program at Dallas Lincoln, and the former owned a subscription to the magazine.

“When we would get the SLAM magazine, Chris would take it and always skip straight to the end to look at the “Punks” section because he wanted to read up on quote, unquote, his competition,” Bishop Jr. recalls. “So, he was always ahead of the game, already trying to figure out what the best players in our age group were doing.”

“Yo, that’s how I found out about Darius Miles, Lamar Odom, Omar Cook, LeBron James, Lenny Cook, the great high school players,” Bosh said. “[I was] aspiring to be in the conversation, too. I wanted to be in that section one day myself.”

So, he dug deeper, eventually morphing into a sponge for hoops knowledge, sopping up every morsel of info available, not just SLAM, but also on the World Wide Web.

When Dallas Lincoln geared up to face Midwest City, Okla. and Duke signee Shelden Williams (the fifth pick of the 2006 draft) during Bosh’s senior season at Lincoln, coach Bishop pulled him into the office to go over a scouting report on the opponent.

“The Internet and all that stuff was just coming out, and Chris knew more about it than I did,” Bishop said. “I called Chris in the office to talk to him about it. He said, ‘Coach, I Googled him, and I’ve been looking at some things that he likes to do and doesn’t like to do.’ We’re talking about a high school kid. When he comes up and tells me that, that tells me that he’s totally different. A lot of kids don’t even want to hear about you talking about a scouting report. Here, this kid’s done his own.’

A star willing to serve as a role player

Hewitt has similar recollections of the kid he started recruiting in 2001 despite his belief that Bosh, “wasn’t even considered the best player on his high school team at that stage.”

Springy point guard Bryan Hopkins carried that title.

“He could (expletive) fly, man,” Joel Bosh said.

But current Brooklyn Nets power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who grew up near Bosh in the Dallas area and graduated high school two years after Bosh, told NBA.com that the Hall of Famer was “the gold standard for the big man” at that time.

Either way, the dynamic at Dallas Lincoln between Bosh and Hopkins “had a major impact on [Bosh’s] development,” according to the elder Bishop, who retired in 2013. It taught Bosh the importance of sacrificing individuality for the greater good, which would pay dividends later in the form of a 2002 state championship over future NBA veteran Kendrick Perkins and Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, and two titles in the NBA with the Miami Heat, while instilling a burning desire to continuously improve to demonstrate his mettle alongside the league’s best.

“Chris wasn’t actually ever ‘the man,’ even his senior year in high school,” Leonard Bishop said. “By the time half the year was over, it was almost 50-50 between Chris and Hopkins. I honestly feel that was major for Chris, not just athletically, but mental, too.”

The mental part is what initially drew Hewitt to Bosh. Going into his second year as coach of Georgia Tech, Hewitt discovered Bosh through his work in the classroom.

“We found out about him because he was a great student,” Hewitt said. “We thought he had great potential. One of my former assistants, Dean Keener, was kind of the lead guy on it. [Georgia Tech] is a tough school academically, and we heard he was interested in computer graphics and computer science. That’s how we started recruiting him.”

“We thought he was a great student, heard all great things about his character. ‘Why not? Let’s take a shot on him.’ [Keener] saw it like, ‘Hey, maybe when he’s a sophomore or a junior, he can contribute.’ Then, when we saw him the spring of his junior year, this guy had advanced so much.

“Then, fast forward to the summer when he was at the ABCD Camp in New Jersey. LeBron [James] was there. Carmelo [Anthony] was there. He was like one of the top three players there. I remember seeing him his senior year at a tournament in St. Louis, and he played a role when he could’ve been demanding every shot.

“He was more concerned with defending, blocking shots, rebounding, running the floor; doing all the things you’d expect a role player to do.”

In other words, Bosh contributed heavily to winning basketball.

Bigger schools eventually came calling, but Georgia Tech was the only university Bosh visited despite scheduled trips for Michigan and Florida.

Academics and athletics drew Bosh to Georgia Tech. During his lone season there, Bosh would win ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003 as Hewitt quickly discovered a young big way ahead of his time, and a precursor to today’s current crop of stretch fours and fives.

Working individual drills with the newest Yellow Jacket going into his freshman season, Hewitt was blown away by Bosh’s ability to shoot effortlessly from the perimeter.

“I said, ‘Let me ask you a question. Can you shoot the ball from 3 like this all the time?’” Hewitt said about one workout. “He kind of just shrugged his shoulders. I said, ‘Look, I’ll make you a deal. If you take 150 [3-pointers] a day from the trail spots and the top of the key, I’ll let you shoot them in games.’”

The Heat send Chris Bosh's jersey to the rafters.

Bosh knocked down 46 3-pointers in his only season at Georgia Tech at a clip of 47.8%, leading the Toronto Raptors to draft him fourth overall as a 19-year old in a 2003 draft class that also featured eventual Heat teammates LeBron James (No. 1) and Dwyane Wade (No. 5).

‘Instinct’ about the game pay off for Bosh

Bosh spent his first seven seasons with the Raptors, and became an All-Star by Year 3, in addition to leading Toronto to a pair of postseason appearances in 2007 and 2008.

Bosh earned a total of five All-Star appearances as a Raptor. Finally, he had become “the man” on the game’s largest stage. Bosh averaged 20.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 497 starts in Toronto, where he had become the franchise’s leader in points (10,275), rebounds (4,776) and double-doubles (239).

But if you’ve made it this far, you’d know that for Bosh, that wasn’t enough.

“Going all the way back to high school, I think Chris always understood he needed good people around him to win the way he wanted to,” Joel Bosh said. “He never has really been like ‘me, me, me, me’ when it comes to basketball. He wanted to win, man. And he wanted to win bad.

“You’re talking about a person that would cry after losing games, and I’m not talking about the big games. He would cry after losing a regular game. That would always just make him work harder, and he would look at what you had to do to win, work at it, like chip away at it.”

So, in the summer of 2010, Bosh decided to join Wade and James with the Miami Heat through a sign-and-trade deal.

“We all just witnessed an unprecedented moment in professional sports, as these three young stars have joined forces in an attempt to completely transform this league,” said former Raptors’ president and general manager Bryan Colangelo at the time.

That’s precisely what took place as Miami’s ‘Big Three’ teamed up to capture back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.

Nobody will ever forget the dying moments of Game 6 in the 2013 Finals, when Bosh snagged an offensive board and calmly dished to Ray Allen in the corner for a series-saving 3 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Reflecting on it all now, Chris Bosh paused a few seconds when asked how he innately knew that subjugating his own ego would ultimately lead to fulfilling all his basketball dreams.

“I couldn’t even tell you, man. I don’t know,” Bosh said. “To me, with basketball, those were the easy decisions that I had to make. Life was tough. But when it came to basketball and preparing, I just knew it. I knew even if it was just finding where to start learning, I just knew where to go. I always followed my gut, followed my instinct, and thank goodness it paid off.

“That’s where kind of having great mentors and people around you [come into play] and just being lucky, really. I was lucky to have coaches that would pick me up without question; pick me up, feed me, and take me home. Even to this day, I still don’t get it; them telling me, ‘Hey, I don’t want anything from you. I just want to see you do well.’ I have been blessed throughout my encounters with people to run into those who would help me and just have this no-strings-attached mentality, and say, ‘Man, I’m just gonna help this little skinny kid out.’

“They didn’t know they were helping out a future Hall of Famer. They were just doing what they did, and I’m so appreciative of that.”

Eventually, blood clots would sideline Bosh before he was ready to walk away from the game.

Hewitt remembers Bosh coming to visit him for LA Clippers games, and how the forward lamented the inability to take part in the current NBA game he had helped to create. Bosh worked three years trying to return to the court, before finally deciding in 2019 to announce his retirement.

“It was really, really hard for him to have to step away the way that he had to step away, and even harder for him to watch the game today,” Hewitt said. “I remember he came to a Clippers game. We were sitting there watching. He was like, ‘Man, the game is finally where my game has always been,’ with all the latitude and freedom that bigs are given now to be on the perimeter shooting the ball.

“He would never forget his core values as a big. He was gonna get in the scrums and go get the ball. But I know it hurt him that the game had evolved to a point where he felt like he really could’ve shown everything he could do. During that time, I think he felt he could work and will his way back to health and get back to playing. When he finally had to step back, it was a blow for him.”

Chris Bosh feeds Ray Allen for one of the biggest shots in NBA history in the 2013 Finals.

Throughout his young life up to that point, Bosh had found joy in a variety of endeavors. He enjoyed reading, writing, learning, and creating. He could draw, dabbled in music, and even dropped a couple of bars on an unreleased rap track that Joel Bosh still has (and will never release). Bosh even brewed beer as a hobby, naming the finished product after his grandfather “Daddy Jack,” which is also the namesake for his record label.

Bosh answered quickly when asked about the first life-after-basketball venture he wanted to pursue.

“It was music,” Bosh said. “The first blood clot, when it was really bad and I had pulmonary embolism, I had never thought about not playing anymore. I knew, or at least thought at the time that I had a lot more basketball to play. But I had never asked myself: ‘What else do I love doing?’ I asked myself that question, and that’s how I got that guitar in my hand.

“Then, I’m making that first crappy beat,” he said, laughing. “I couldn’t explain it to you. I don’t know why it was super taboo in my head to be 30-plus starting music. But that’s what made it exciting at the same time.”

Bosh also released a book in June 2021, entitled “Letters to a Young Athlete”.

He’s leaning on those writing chops to pen a Hall of Fame induction speech that he estimates is about 85 to 90% complete. Bosh joked that “we’ve printed up like the seventh version, and I’m about to go through it again.”

Former coaches Bishop, Hewitt and Keener will be in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony. Sam Mitchell, Bosh’s head coach with the Raptors, won’t be there due to a hip-replacement surgery. Bishop’s son and Bosh’s former Lincoln teammate, Leonard Jr., plans to “throw on” his No. 4 Raptors jersey “that I got his rookie year,” adding that “I may shed a tear because I know all of the hard work that he’s put in to get to that point.”

As for younger brother Joel, he won’t join the family for the induction ceremony. The Bosh brothers haven’t talked in years and haven’t spent time together since 2016 at Jarrett Jack’s induction into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Still, that won’t dampen Joel’s joy for what Chris has accomplished. He still plans to sit down with his wife and daughter to celebrate big brother’s big day because “it’s really a blessing, man. My brother’s getting into the Hall of Fame, and that’s super dope.”

Chris Bosh, meanwhile, looks forward to seeing “a tremendous amount of” aunts at the ceremony that are gonna be “super proud and over the moon,” in part because of what patriarch “Daddy Jack” Bosh means to the entire Bosh family.

“They still talk about him to this day. It’s like, ‘Daddy would’ve said’ [or] ‘well, you know Daddy said,’” Bosh said. “There are life lessons that they’re still [talking about from Daddy Jack] to this day. He had five kids, and I have five kids, too. So, I kind of like to think that he kind of lives through me, and I’m giving them that example of, ‘Damn, if Daddy Jack would’ve had an education and a chance, shoot, this is what it looks like.’”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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