'Sometimes to be successful you have to have some failures'
Two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh talks to Bikash Mohapatra about Miami Heat's success story, LeBron James and why he puts the team above personal gratification.
For someone who is a two-time NBA champion, an eight-time All-Star and an Olympic champion, Chris Bosh’s humility surprises you.
The tall frame isn’t very intimidating; the grin on his face is ever present and the calm in which he interacts with the media is not something you are used to, considering few Indian sportspersons are humble.
On his first trip to India, the 29-year-old is palpably jet-lagged and in trying to satisfy his culinary instincts, he has ended up with an upset stomach.
Nonetheless, the American takes time out from his promotions pertaining to the NBA Jam, an initiative to promote the sport in India, and is at his loquacious best in this exclusive interview with rediff.com.
Congratulations on your second straight championship win. Which one of the two was the more satisfying?
The first one is always great. We had to get the monkey off our back. That was very important, very gratifying. That’s something we’ll cherish forever.
But, I think, to actually defend a championship was a great thing, because not everybody can do that. I think only a handful of teams in the league’s history have repeated as champions. It was much harder, a rougher season and a much longer grind than before.
And the fact that we came back to beat a very, very good team. It’s a good feeling for us. The second one, I would say, was a lot more satisfying.
Your moving to Miami Heat coincided with the franchise’s best phase. The first final you featured in, you finished second best. How much did that defeat motivate you and your team?
I think it was good that we lost the first time we got into the final. I mean, it was a success. The first time we got together to make it that far. We were expecting to win. But that defeat taught us that there’re still other aspects of the game where we needed to get better.
Sometimes, to be successful you have to have some failures. You need to learn from that. I think that defeat motivated us a lot more to come back next year and not take anything for granted. That defeat made us aware that we can be beaten and gave a bit of fear, something that motivated us further to go out there and do the job expected of us.
Image: Chris Bosh
'Miami Heat always have to deal with pressure'
Has it increased the pressure on you guys?
Yeah! Miami Heat always deals with pressure. Anytime we don’t do well in a championship, or come up short, we consider it a failure.
We take pride in dealing with that pressure. I think we do a pretty good job of concentrating on something that needs to be concentrated upon.
It will be the same thing next year. We want to win, of course. But we know it is a process and no matter what happens we need to go through the season first and then everything else will take care of itself.
The last decade has been the best for Miami Heat. What, according you, worked for the franchise, that didn’t in the years before?
I think it’s all about learning. Before they had very good teams, better organisation, but still came up short. Everybody from the owner to the coach to the players had been humbled. Everybody just appreciated what it takes to really be successful.
Miami has indeed had a good decade. The year 2006 brought them their first championship. It was a great achievement considering nobody expected them to win that year. But Dwayne (Wade) was able to come on his own at that time.
And it was good for everybody involved. It just propelled them, gave them that championship hunger and that in turn has helped us pursue more. Hopefully we can keep going.
Image: Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat attends the NBA Championship victory rally
Photographs: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images
'You have to put all the individual aspirations aside'
Miami is a star-studded team. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, yourself… how difficult is it to keep personal aspirations aside and work together for the team?
It’s something we all have to learn. It’s one of the difficulties of playing within a team concept.
But we do understand that if the team is successful, individual success will come along with it. And that’s how it usually goes. Being the veteran players that we are, being a little older and growing up in the league you kind of see everything -- that the team’s success is the most important.
After learning that, you just want to win more things. You put all the individual aspirations aside, sacrifice those things. It’s not easy but it is worth it.
What kind of relationship you share with LeBron… and your other teammates?
Great! We have a great team, perhaps the greatest I have been part of. All of us get along. We just have great guys who hang out. Everybody keeps the mood light and keep getting at each other’s back.
We have dealt with tough situations together and have always supported each other. We have created a very special bond over the years.
Image: Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat reacts
Photographs: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
'You need to be in a team of great players'
Going back in your career, you moving to Toronto (Raptors) and playing there. What was the experience like? What made you stick to a fledgling franchise like that for that long?
I was in a pretty good situation. They signed me on a deal that was long term and I was able to take that challenge of trying to help that team become play-offs contenders.
I had a lot of dreams back then. That was when I was keen on having a lot of success as an individual.
I accomplished some of it. But, as a team, we just kept coming up short. I realised that you have to be in a team of great players to have great success and I was able to pursue that opportunity with Miami.
But I’m very grateful to Toronto, everybody supporting me. The fans were fantastic. I grew up a lot there and was able to use that as a stepping stone to where I am today.
There were hard times in Toronto, but I miss it. I enjoyed myself there and it will be always like that.
Image: Chris Bosh
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra
'It's difficult to play out of position'
NBA is hugely popular worldwide. Players from many countries are part of the NBA, but when it comes to proliferation, the idea hasn’t been exactly successful. NBA did try to get into Canada with two franchises, but one (Vancouver) soon moved back to the US (Memphis). Why do you think NBA isn’t expanding in the manner it should?
It’s difficult. For one to go through customs and many other bottlenecks can be a pain. As far as the logistics of business is concerned, it gets a little bit complicated with different countries.
But I am sure they are not ruling out on expansion. I am sure if an opportunity comes for the NBA to grow and expand, they will take it.
We’ll see what happens in the near and far future. But, as of now, people are just trying to have a successful business, and successful teams, whether it is in the US or abroad.
You have played out of position on quite a few occasions. How difficult is it?
It’s difficult. But that’s one of the things you have to deal with when you want to win. To be successful you have to do things that you otherwise don’t want to do.
We (Heat) have a certain advantage with me playing out of position. I struggle with it every year but it’s supposed to be a challenge. It is something I continue to work on. It’s not easy but I take pride in doing difficult things.
I just want to be successful with the team and if that means I have to do certain things, I’m fine with that.
Image: Chris Bosh
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra
'I am very proud of making the All-Stars with Miami'
You have been quite a selfless player. On many an occasion you have sacrificed for the team. How difficult it is?
It’s difficult. But then everything is difficult. It’s not easy to win a championship. That’s one of the things that I got into my head very quickly. And as long as you know that in the mind, when the difficulty comes, you actually break through that.
You have made it to the All-Stars on many occasions. How important it is for a player?
It’s very important to me. Before, with the Raptors, I used to do that as a primary option. It was a little bit easier.
But to make it to the All-Stars with Miami is a very difficult thing, as I am doing it in a different role. So I am very proud of that.
You were part of the US team that won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. How disappointing was missing out on the title defence in London last year?
At first, I hated the fact that I had missed the Olympics. I had a little injury and preferred to rest. I wasn’t entirely disappointed though.
I had a great experience in 2008 and that was so good that I felt the other guys in the team also need to have a chance to experience the same. So, in the final analysis, I wasn’t too upset about missing it. In fact, I am happy that the other good players in our squad got a chance to win a medal and add it to their trophy collection.
Image: Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat dunks against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference semi-finals
Photographs: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
'Social media is a huge platform'
Taking the previous question a bit further, how do competitions like the World Championships and Olympics matter vis-à-vis the NBA?
It matters a lot, because it is all about pride. It’s about representing your country well. Just being in that position, travelling to other countries and experience different cultures is a great thing. You don’t get to do that often.
My experience with US Basketball has been awesome.
Lastly, you are very active on the social media… (Interrupts)
I just try to have fun with it. It is a means to humanise yourself. It is to show the world that you are also an ordinary human being, even if you live a life that is nothing short of extraordinary.
Social media is a huge platform. Everybody is using it for either business or personal purposes. I try to mix a bit of both.
I try to make sure my fans keep up with everything. I interact with them at that level and as that grows people tend to know you a lot better. I just try to inspire at some level and help people keep up to what I’m doing.
Image: Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat reacts in overtime against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals
Photographs: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images