Meet Chris Bosh's posse. Her name is Adriene Mayes. She's his
cousin from Detroit, and she recently earned a master's degree in
engineering from Murray State. They live together in a condo in
downtown Toronto. A serious-minded 24-year-old who runs Bosh's
eponymous foundation to promote education and physical fitness
among local youths, Mayes does most of the cooking, most of the
bookkeeping and all of the housecleaning. They watch a lot of
sports on TV, take turns driving each other around and get along
famously. ¬∂ Meet Chris Bosh's ride. It's a black Chevy
Avalanche that cost him "about $50,000," a tiny percentage of
the $9.3 million he is scheduled to be paid by the Toronto
Raptors over the next three years. "People ask me, 'What'd you
buy that for?'" says Bosh. "Look, I always told myself that's
what I wanted to buy. So that's what I bought."
Meet 6'10" Chris Bosh, one year removed from Georgia Tech and the
fourth pick in the 2003 NBA draft, which means he's the answer to
a future trivia question: Who was selected right after LeBron
James, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony? The 19-year-old Bosh
took algebra, trig and calculus in high school, thought about
majoring in engineering at Tech and draws raves from veteran
Raptors--focused, intelligent and composed being the most
common--that make him sound as if he's been around long enough to
have used a slide rule.
He can also play a little, which is one of the reasons that the
Raptors, who made a blockbuster trade on Dec. 1 with the Chicago
Bulls, seem to have turned around a season that was going nowhere
fast. Bosh can surely do the math. Not long ago the Raptors had
trouble scoring 70 points; now they routinely put up 100. Not
long ago they were one of the worst teams in the league; at
week's end they were 13-10 and in the thick of the weak Eastern
Conference race. And not long ago Bosh was a nonfactor in the
Rookie of the Year equation; now his productivity (11.5 points on
47.6% shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 1.61 blocks through Sunday) rates
him at least a mention with one-name wonders LeBron and Carmelo.
"Am I surprised at how well I'm doing?" says Bosh, turning the
question over in his mind, as if performing a calculation. "To be
honest, yes, I am."
Nobody, however, should start planning parade routes through
Toronto. The Raptors won their first six games after the trade,
but dropped their next two, including a disheartening 90-89
defeat at home on Sunday to the lowly Miami Heat. But like Bosh,
the Raptors have sneaked up on the league.
Most observers knew they would be different after swapping size
and rebounding (center Antonio Davis and forward Jerome Williams)
for shooting and flash (swingman Jalen Rose and forward Donyell
Marshall) but not necessarily better. Early returns on the deal,
though, give a huge advantage to Toronto (page 60), which has
gone from virtually unwatchable to downright entertaining. Though
the 6'9" Marshall can't guard a barber pole, he's averaged 13.3
points and 7.9 rebounds over his last seven seasons with hardly
any notice. As a Raptor he had racked up 22.0 points per game and
8.1 boards through Sunday, and his three-point shooting had
opened up the court for Carter and Rose. Toronto has gotten
additional help in the trenches from the undersized (6'6") but
sturdy (265 pounds) Lonny Baxter, the final element in the deal,
which also sent forward Chris Jefferies to Chicago.
Before deciding to acquire the combustible 6'8" Rose, Raptors
general manager Glen Grunwald called Isiah Thomas, his former
teammate (at Indiana) and boss (in Toronto). Thomas had coached
Rose on the Indiana Pacers for 1 1/2 seasons, and there were
rumors of friction between them. "No matter what passed between
them, Isiah told me he would love the chance to coach Jalen
again," says Grunwald. "The only reason [the Pacers] dealt him
was that they needed a big man."
Thrilled to be back at point guard--he rarely fails to mention
his idol, Magic Johnson, in any basketball conversation--Rose has
meshed with Toronto's resident star, Vince Carter. "If we have a
play at the end of the game, it'll probably be drawn up for
Vince, and I'm fine with that," says Rose. Then he smiles. "But
the second option better be for me." He's also happy to be only 3
1/2 hours from his native Detroit, in a city where many fondly
recall his Fab Five days. "For a lot of fans in Toronto, the
University of Michigan is a home team," says Rose. "I'm back
playing the position I want to be playing, and all I want to do
is make this team better."
The newly overhauled Raptors have benefited from the maturity of
Rose and from that shown by their thin, young rookie. "We can't
put enough on this kid," says first-year coach Kevin O'Neill.
Though Bosh is built like a small forward, he is holding his own
at centre (that's how they spell it north of the border); in his
first seven starts after the trade he averaged 13.1 points and
9.1 rebounds. "Chris is slow to react, and I mean that as a
compliment," says veteran Raptors forward Michael Curry. "He
doesn't play the game at a hundred miles an hour like a lot of
young guys, so his mistakes are limited. And when he makes one,
he's not lost for the whole game. I call that being
That reflects his upbringing in south Dallas. His parents, Noel,
a plumbing engineer, and Freida, a computer systems analyst,
valued education. "Schoolwork came kind of natural to me, but
when I brought home a grade that wasn't up to par, my parents let
me know it," says Bosh, a member of the National Honor Society
who led Lincoln High to a 40-0 mark and the Class 4A title as a
senior. He never thought about being what he calls "a
one-year-and-out guy" at Georgia Tech, but the buzz built quickly
after he averaged 15.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks and
was named ACC Rookie of the Year.
Bosh impressed the Toronto brass during a one-on-one predraft
workout with Kansas senior forward Nick Collison, but Grunwald
still made inquiries about trading his No. 4 pick for a veteran,
and after the draft Carter suggested that the G.M. should have
pulled the trigger on such a deal. "I don't blame Vince," says
Bosh. "He didn't know anything about me. All I know is that the
first time we had a chance to talk, right before training camp,
Vince told me, 'We're glad to have you. What you need to do is
play hard and show you belong.'"
The preparation had already begun; Bosh spent the summer lifting
weights, gorging on protein shakes and eating a protein-rich diet
monitored by a nutritionist. He even tried a few legal
supplements (MET-Rx, creatine and glutamine) to pad his then
212-pound frame. "I gained about 18 pounds, and a lot of it was
muscle," he said last week between bites of a carb-loaded,
postpractice repast of chicken fingers, French fries and pasta.
"I guess I could stand to put on some more, but I'm not focusing
on it. I don't feel like I'm getting pushed around."
Bosh also went to work building a support system, which unlike
those of many young draft picks didn't include a bunch of guys
charged with keeping the Esplanade gassed up. Cuz is enough for
now. "I couldn't imagine coming home to an empty house," Bosh
says. "With all the adjustments a rookie has to go through, I
knew I needed someone."
Bosh's game is hard to characterize. His greatest strength, in
fact, is that he has no glaring weakness, not even his slender
frame. Yes, his upper body is slight for a center (or even a
centre), but his legs are strong, allowing him to establish
position at both ends of the floor. "He's no noodle" is the way
O'Neill puts it. His right hand needs work--being a lefty gives
him a slight advantage his first time through the league--but
he's already improved in that area. In last Friday night's
114-111 loss to the Boston Celtics, Bosh missed a sweeping
righthanded hook but later switched the ball from his left to his
right hand in midair to make a layup.
Though he's comfortable with his back to the basket, at this
point Bosh is more likely to turn, square up and work his man a
little, perhaps take a fallaway jumper or use his soft touch from
the baseline. His footwork is already superb, which is why Rose,
Carter and shooting guard Alvin William use him frequently on
high pick-and-rolls; it's only a matter of time before he picks,
fades and starts scoring from the outside. That agility helps him
on defense too. Outside-shooting frontcourtmen (such as Dirk
Nowitzki, Antoine Walker and Karl Malone) can stay out on the
perimeter all night, but Bosh will be right there with them.
O'Neill, in fact, can see Bosh guarding a small forward or a two
guard in the near future.
Bosh's on-court demeanor is serious but not solemn; in the Boston
game he accompanied a rim-rattling dunk with a silent scream and
a subtle shimmy shake, an example of Bosh spice. He seeks an
on-court temperament somewhere between the demonstrative Kevin
Garnett and the phlegmatic Tim Duncan, his favorite players. He
studies their moves and makes them his own, modifying a Duncan
step-through or a Garnett spin for his game. "It's important to
have models because you can't come up with everything yourself,"
says Bosh. "I look at those two and kind of put them together."
He has a long way to go to reach the Duncan-Garnett level. But
his steady play and stout competitiveness have made a believer
out of at least one former doubter. "Chris asks questions,
accepts criticism and takes advice," says Carter. "All that, and
he can really play. There aren't many rookies like that, and I'm
glad we've got one of them."
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MANNY MILLAN BOSHWHACKED The slender rookie, whose face belies his maturity, showed Boston why he was the draft's fourth pick.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MANNY MILLAN FRESH VINCE The new Raptors have meshed with Carter, who's averaging a team-high 23.0 points.
"AM I SURPRISED AT HOW WELL I'M DOING?" Bosh says thoughtfully,
as if performing a calculation. "To be honest, YES, I AM."