“I wanted to be just like KG growing up. He was the first person I saw play the game to where he looked like me. I said ‘Wow. You can be skinny and play basketball’,” Bosh said Wednesday in a meet and greet event organized by the NBA for its affiliate partners. “Everybody keeps telling me I’m too skinny. And so it was so cool to see that. I would just practice all the time and watch his tapes and just try to absorb everything I could.”
Bosh is a lot like KG, not just in the way they played the game. Garnett was known for his intense style of play – always in his opponents’ faces, never backing down from anyone. Bosh was also brash and competitive, but he also expressed his personality through his eccentricities.
Now, it's common practice for teams to start social media campaigns for their star players. Back in 2008 – way before Twitter or Facebook – Bosh posted his own All-Star “commercial" on his YouTube channel, worried that he wasn't getting enough attention because he was playing in Toronto.
In Miami, Bosh was ahead of his time as a meme lord with his numerous video bombs on his teammates’ postgame interviews. He also became a "TikToker" with this viral Harlem Shake video (yes, that's Dwyane Wade in the teddy bear helmet).
Even now during a virtual press conference for his new book, Bosh answered a question about the future of basketball with his thoughts on blockchain technology in relation to improving the fans’ experience of watching NBA games.
“One of the things that I’m really interested to see is how blockchain is going to affect something like a season ticket you know. Would it make sense to have your season ticket on some sort of blockchain backing? What sort of incentives can you get from a team if you’re on the ledger, if you’re on that blockchain ledger, and people pass down these things? I know for a fact that people have left their season tickets on their wheels you know,” Bosh said.
“With that said, there’s an interesting space for that. There’s just some things you know that I like to have fun and think about. But that’s what mainly I think about in terms of future technology, getting games to everyone with a phone because we’re all getting more and more mobile.”
This is all to say that when Bosh enters the Hall of Fame later this year, we’re immortalizing one of the most unique people to pick up a basketball.
In Toronto, he was part of the post-Vince Carter era Raptors that ended a long playoff drought with back-to-back postseason appearances in 2007 and 2008. With the Heat, it's easy to summarize his time there as the third star to a team that went to four Finals and won two titles with coach Erik Spoelstra, but that would be reductive.
If KG was the first truly versatile power forward, Bosh kicked it up a notch in Miami. Many called his move to the center position and taking more 3s “sacrificing”, when he was actually innovating the game.
“We saw how the game was evolving. We would talk about it all the time. Teams were starting to shoot more 3s. It was starting to trend, just for a couple, just a few teams you know. And just me as a big, I spend a lot of time at the 4, even more at the 5. So something started clicking,” Bosh said.
“I said, ‘Hey I can make that shot. I’ve been practicing it for years now. If I’m playing the center position or the four position, I can take advantage of guys who are used to being close to the basket.' I remember shooting five 3s a game with ease.”
He did all of that while still doing everything expected of a big man. If you think he was soft, always remember that Ray Allen's iconic 3 in the 2013 Finals would not have been possible if Bosh hadn't out-hustled three San Antonio Spurs for the offensive rebound.
Or you could take the fact that he fought back from near-death to make it back to the league. In February of 2015, Bosh was diagnosed with pulmonary blood clots after a game. Just eight months later, he returned to the Heat and played All-Star level basketball. He again developed blood clots in his calf around the All-Star break, from which he bravely tried to get back again. After nearly two years of trying to recover, Bosh finally called it a career.
“Mentally, I was worn down by trying to play basketball and that had never happened before. That fire just wasn't there,” Bosh said at the time. “I just got further and further along in identifying where I was and how comfortable I was moving on.”
It was tough seeing Bosh get denied a third chapter in his career. Still, he had done enough to cement his place as one of the all-time greats. He made the All-Star team 11 straight times. The Miami Heat already retired his jersey. He deserves the same from the Toronto Raptors, one day. He was a catalyst for the player empowerment movement in more ways than just controlling which team he played for. He was a part of Miami's Big 3, but even if he didn't decide to play with LeBron and D-Wade, something tells me he would have found a way to be big, nonetheless.