Interview: Chris Bosh on the NBA finals, LeBron James and the pressure of winning

by Tariq Engineer  Jul 18, 2013 11:33 IST

#basketball   #Chris Bosh   #Miami Heat   #NBA   #NBA India   #Sports   #The Big Interview  

The Miami Heat’s season was slipping away without a championship. They trailed the San Antonio Spurs by three points in Game 6 of the NBA finals with mere seconds left. The Heat had drawn up a play for LeBron James to shoot a three but he missed. As players from both sides scrambled for the rebound, Chris Bosh stayed calm and crashed the boards, hunted the ball.

A tick of the clock later and he found a backpedaling Ray Allen in the right corner with a perfect pass. Allen nailed the three and after Bosh blocked Danny Green’s last second attempt for the Spurs, the Heat were headed to overtime with their dream still alive.

They would eventually hold on to win that game by one point to even the series at 3-3, then win Game 7 in Miami to become back-to-to NBA champions. Bosh, who is India to promote the NBA, talked to Firstpost about the NBA finals, what it’s like to play with LeBron James, how he deals with the pressure of always being expected to win, and why he likes to photobomb his teammates.

Chris Bosh cradles the NBA championship trophy during the Miami Heat's victory parade. Getty

Chris Bosh cradles the NBA championship trophy during the Miami Heat's victory parade. Getty

In Game 6, you grabbed a crucial offensive rebound in the final seconds and found Ray Allen for the game-tying three-pointer. What were you thinking in the moment, or was it all instinctive?

It was all reaction. I just remember thinking okay, we are very close to losing this game. I was looking at everything that was happening around. I said ‘put that out of my mind’. I remember being down by five and thinking we have to hit a three. Taking each play step by step. Last shot Lebron got a great look and I just wanted to follow – go crash the offensive boards. Luckily it came to me and the first person I saw was Ray [Allen]. He was backing up and he hit an incredible shot. He is a clutch shooter but that was probably the biggest of his career. I am happy he was right there by me [laughs].

Does reacting in the moment come from practice?

Yeah. You don’t want to think too much when you are out there playing. That is why you have to trust your instinct. Nothing was going through my mind. I just wanted to get the ball. And you see him and you pass it to him.

You never know when you need it. I never saw him hit a shot like that the whole season. But he still practiced it and practiced and in the biggest situation, he hits it.

When he hits that shot, what does that do for the team? Does that give you the sense this is meant to be?

Yeah, for sure [laughs]. But we still had a lot of work to do. But after that game, I just felt because when you win, you have to have a little bit of luck on your side too. And I think the way that the sequence of that game – the way it went at the end – I felt we were supposed to win. That gave me confidence to go out in Game 7 with a fresh mindset because I felt I had been given a second chance and we as a team had been given a second chance.

How does it feel to be back-to-back champions? Is this what you dream about?

You dream about it but when it really happens, it is nothing short of amazing. I always watched Michael Jordan and Kobe [Bryant] and Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal] and Hakeem Olajuwon and all those guys repeat as champions. You want to do it but once you get to the league, a lot of other things come up and when you are finally able to overcome that and be in a position to be successful and actually win back-to-back titles, it is a dream come true. It is amazing.

You were the No 1 guy in Toronto. Was it a hard decision to go to Miami?

It was. As a player, you want to be the guy to lead a team, whether people believe in you or not, to success. I had that opportunity in Toronto year after year after year but came up short. But I knew that being the no 1 guy isn’t everything. A very small percentage of guys are the no 1 guy and lead their team to a championship. And even sometimes it takes years and years and years. I wanted to play at a high level and I wanted to play on the biggest stage. And I felt Miami would be the best place for that.

What is it like to deal with the Miami Heat circus? The fans expect you to win every time.

I think we knew it coming into it. A part of us knew that we were going to have that expectation, whether it is fair or not, to win. We expect that of ourselves. We understand there is going to be a lot of outside opinion and a lot of outside noise. I think it was a shock for us at first but we eventually got used to it. It comes with the territory and I think it has made us stronger as men and as players to really concentrate on what we are supposed to and do our job.

What do you mean by stronger as men?

You are going to get attacked personally. You are going to get attacked as a player. Everything is going to be challenged. And attacked. You can either pay attention to it and let that bring you down. Or you can disregard it and do what’s best for you and your family and for the team. A lot of times it is challenging. People are talking about your family and your kids and things that don’t have to do with basketball and it is just something you have to beat.

How did you learn to tune it out?

Through trial and error [laughs]. Before I paid attention to it and it used to make me upset. But I eventually found it is not helping me. If something isn’t helping me, I don’t have time for it. You think about what is important to you and you get your priorities straight. Once I did that, it became a little easier. It is still a challenge to block it out but it is a part of the job. I understand it and I just want to continue to win.

What is like playing with guys like LeBron and Wade?

It is great. I love it. They are great guys, first and foremost. That is what makes it easy. WE are teammates and good friends. WE enjoy being together. WE enjoy playing together. Watching those guys develop and playing together every day. They are the best players in the world and we push each other to get better.

Do you guys hang out?

We hang out. We hang out. We were together for a long time so everybody goes their separate ways. After a few more days, we will begin to pick back up and talk to each other a lot more. We are a family.

How good can this Miami Heat team be? Is there a ceiling?

No ceiling. No ceiling. We have to want to get better and we have that. We just have to continue to be humble. We have all tasted that success and I think that makes guy want it more. We know what’s at stake and we understand that if we don’t win a championship it is considered a failure. We know that and we feel that ourselves. So we hold each other to a certain standard, and if we are not playing to that standard, we let each other know about it.

What is a typical day like for an NBA player?

It is a pretty routine. Wake up in the morning, you practice. Have to give time to your body. Eat right. Stretch. Ice and all that. Before a game we have shootarounds and light practice. I like to take a lot of naps. I sleep a lot. A game is a game. You go through the game and then after that, if you are on the road, you are checking it to a hotel or travelling. It is pretty routine. It is tough but we all love it.

What are your hopes on a trip like this personally and what do you try and pass on?

I just want to have fun. I love seeing the world. I have never been to India before. I was awarded the opportunity to come and experience Indian culture and go to places I had never seen. With that, I wanted to bring a positive outlook to basketball and show that is a great sport and try to build a fan base for the NBA and the Miami Heat. Hopefully people will see that and they will love the game even more.

If you could go back and give your 19-year-old self some advice after all you have been through in the last decade, what would you tell him?

Be ready. Just be ready for life. Life is difficult. It is not going to be easy. Coming in at 19, just a little bit naive. You think everything is going to be just great. And it is but you are going to have challenges in life. And you have to accept those challenges. Before I rejected it. I didn’t want to deal with those problems but they are going to come. It is not about the problems, it is about how you react.

Can you give me an example?

At 19 I was a little bit smaller than everybody and I had a very tough time playing and dealing with the physicality of the NBA. Dealing with the schedule, playing so many games. The frustration level was high. But I kept working. I got through it but I didn’t necessarily like it at the time. So I tell myself to expect tough times. The first week of the season I thought this is going to be great and I am going to be this. But it takes longer than you expect.

What advice would you give young Indian kids who might be dreaming of making it to the NBA?

Don’t give up on your dream. People are going to tell you why you can’t do it. You have to tell yourself why you can and don’t just talk about it. You have to work hard. You have to work extremely hard and always believe in yourself. And if you do that and put yourself in the right place and stay positive, good things will happen.

How did your photobombing of your teammates start?

[Laughs] Dwayne and LeBron always have great games – big time monster games. If you have a big game, they are going to put you on camera.

I just want to have a good time. Want to show people we are having fun. Kind of have a classic, iconic part of that. It just came to me one day and I just did it.

Do you think about it beforehand or do you decide what to do in the moment?

It is in the moment. That is what makes it fun. Just show up and if I think of something, I do it. If I don’t, I just keep going.

Expectations for next season?

Everybody knows what our goal is. We want to win three in a row. But it is a process. It’s the summer and we enjoy the summer. When day one of training camp starts, we start all over again.

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