People — 04 November 2012
Off the court with Chris Bosh

BY JONATHON KING

We know it’s hard because of the photo and headline, but pretend you don’t know yet who this story is about, because, really, you don’t know him.

Consider a tall, lanky young man stretched out on a couch in his Miami Beach home, he’s in a loose, colorful linen shirt and perfectly cuffed trousers for his unusually long legs and he is barefoot because he likes being barefoot here.

He has a book in his lap. It’s Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein, which he admits is a tougher read than Isaacson’s book on the life of Steve Jobs which he recently finished and liked so much he figured the Einstein volume would be worth a shot.

Taking a break between chapters, the 28-year-old lets his mind lapse back to a recent European vacation and fondly recalls viewing the archaeological excavations on the Greek Island of Delos – one of the most important mythological and historical sites in Greece and dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Or maybe he flashes back to his trip to the Musée du Louvre in Paris where he saw for the first time Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Both experiences he calls “Very, very cool.”

By the way, the music on the speakers in the background may be a late 1950s recording of Billie Holiday or a bluesy piece by Robert Johnson – both among his favorites.

So now take a guess, without peeking, who were we writing about today. Successful entrepreneur? World-traveling art connoisseur? Entertainment CEO? How about ball player?

How about Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat, beginning the new season as one of the newly crowned champions of the NBA? How about a 6’-11’’, 235-pound power forward turned center this season who was groomed from childhood to be a basketball player?

“Bosh is weird,” says J.J., a staunch Heat fan from Broward when told of the man’s reading habits and off-court stint to view the ruins of an ancient Greek society. “Maybe that’s why he works so well with LeBron [James] and D [Dwyane] Wade because he’s weird.”

Substitute “weird” with iconoclastic or non-stereotypical of the image that professional ball players can sometimes project and you may join J.J.’s assessment.

But no man is singular in personality, especially those who listen and watch instead of those who are always making noise and wanting to be watched.

So read on and pick up on a little of the off-court life that makes up South Florida’s seven-time All-Star, Olympic Champion and now World Champion ball player.

Bosh seems to epitomize the old anonymous saying: “Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.”

He has been described as “the quiet one” by sports writers so many times it’s like a sobriquet that should be stitched onto his jersey: Chris “Quiet Man” Bosh.

“That’s just the way I’ve always been. I’m just more comfortable listening. It takes time for me to warm up to people and situations,” Bosh says. “I don’t think about it much, it’s just natural to me. But there are times when I break out and say something or do something and people go ‘Whoa, man. Where’d that come from?’ And I don’t even see it. That trips me out.”

Like the times when he gets a stunning pass from Dwyane Wade in the lane and rises up with a whiplash dunk in the fourth game of the finals and the quiet man balls his fists and screams into the crowd with a “take that!” fire in his eyes?

“Yeah, I guess. Times like that.”

So maybe that’s the yin and yang of Chris Bosh. The mad dunker who scored 24 on the night the Heat was crowned NBA Champions and the cerebral thinker who graduated with honors from his high school and despite leaving Georgia Tech for the NBA after his first year still became a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. The ball player who during the playoffs greeted a new son, Jackson Anthony Bosh, was sidelined for three weeks with an abdominal injury and still kept focus to come back and help his team win the ultimate prize in basketball.

An ESPN story once called him “a complex man with impeccable taste in clothes, art, food and books,” and he laughs.

“That’s a new one on me,” he says. “I’ve been described as lots of things by ESPN but I never heard that one.”

So shall we start with the books?

Chris Bosh still remembers the first novel he ever read and started a lifelong love of books. It was A Wrinkle in Time a science fiction fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle.

“I was probably around 10 and it made such an impression on me I still remember it today.”

He says he reads mostly in the evenings and admits he often falls asleep with a book in his hands. He remembers books being in the Bosh household in Texas when he was growing up, either coming as gifts or from his parents or from school. The benefit of his passion is why he often speaks to children through his philanthropic programs – his non-profit organization Team Tomorrow Inc. is “dedicated to supporting community-based organizations that promote the upliftment of children, families and the community” – about the importance and enjoyment of reading.

And by the way, his preferences are all over the map and he recently said “I’m kind of in between books right now so if you have any recommendations?”

Speaking of recommendations, what about that impeccable taste in music.

“I don’t know where they got that from,” Bosh says, still smiling over the ESPN quote. “When it comes to music, I’m old-school jazz and blues and that I got from my father.”

He remembers going to “Jazz under the Stars” in a park in Dallas with his family and growing up listening to an old blues radio station there called “The Oasis.”

“I think you pick up on the musical taste from your parents and, you know, they don’t even think you’re listening until you say something and your dad looks at you and says ‘What do you know about Coltrane? Where’d you get that from?’ and you say come on dad, you been playin’ that every day for years.”

Bosh says after he married last year – in a subdued, quiet-man kind of ceremony –  his wife, Adrienne, turned him on to rock ‘n’ roll and he’ll listen, but he always comes back to the tunes from back in the day. “I just get a kick out of it.”

As for the food thing, that kind of perplexes him. If he was going out to dinner tonight Bosh says he’d probably find a place that serves an Indian butter chicken, a dish made with dressed chicken marinated with a yogurt and spices like garam masala, ginger and garlic paste. But remember, Bosh does make around $17 million a year so, yes, he has a personal chef who cooks up meals consisting of very little fried food, a lot of vegetables and enough calories to keep him at a playing weight of 235.

And unlike other “impeccable” food connoisseurs, “I do indulge in junk food once in a while.” Ice cream is an admitted favorite as well as chocolate.

The clothes are a custom thing. When you have as distinctive a body as many professional athletes, you aren’t picking off the rack.

“I consider myself a situational dresser,” Bosh says. His wardrobe is extensive but he likes to “keep my options open.” Still, the change from Toronto, where he played his first seven years in the NBA, and the sub-tropical climate of Miami made a big difference.

“I like bright colors and styles with more flair and Miami really allows that. You can be a lot looser down here.”

He says being around fashion-conscious teammates like James and Wade makes it even more interesting.

“Yeah, one of those guys will come in wearing a new sweater and you’re like, whoa that’s nice, man. Where’d you get that?”

In the world of art and architecture, Bosh might also use that line “I like to keep my options open.” He says his father did a lot of drawing and his mother is involved in computer design and he takes a bit of both from them. The study of engineering may have moved him to be so appreciative of the ancient ruins of Delos and as for the trip to The Louvre? An opportunity to see the best of the best, and he admits he did not know that the Mona Lisa was painted on a poplar panel.

Of all the words used to describe him in the ESPN quote, impeccable might be a bit hyperbolic – still, Bosh comes off as multi-dimensional in ways that have nothing to do with jump shots, rebounds and assists.

“When you talk to LeBron or Dwyane, you feel like you’re talking to a basketball player,” Miami Herald sports columnist Greg Cote once said. “When you talk to Chris Bosh you get the feeling you’re talking to a pretty interesting guy who just happens to play basketball.”

But make no mistake about it. Bosh is a ball player. Despite his many interests, inquisitive mind, love of design and engineering and learning, his focus has been on basketball since childhood.

“You start out in middle school and they find you,” he says. “You’ve got potential and they get you onto the local summer league teams and they put you up against the other players with potential.

“Then they recruit you into high schools and believe me, if somebody tells you they don’t recruit in high school, they’re wrong. Then you get to play against the best high school players in summer tournaments and camps. Then you get to the best college you can and you work against another whole level, trying to be the best one there.

“Then if you’re lucky enough to get to the NBA, now you’re at another level against the best and you work to get to a championship, or two or three and then maybe you set your sites on being one of the best as an all-star then leave a legacy like the best 50 of all time.”

So it never stops? The learning, the striving, the listening and the living?

“You stay hungry and you stay humble,” says the quiet man. “Because there’s always someone or something out there better.” λ

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