Chris Bosh did not finish his career the way he wanted. He fully intended to play until his late 30s. His body did not allow that.
Bosh was forced to retire in 2017 because of recurring blood clots. He tried valiantly to come back but was advised to retire. While draft peers LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have been chasing championships, Bosh has had to find solace outside of basketball.
His induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame has made the transition easier, but it was a difficult ending to a stellar career. Bosh won two titles with the Heat and was a standout player for seven seasons with the Raptors.
While he was relegated to third option behind James and Dwyane Wade in Miami, his impact on the same as a stretch-4, athletic-5, is unquestioned.
“It’s definitely given me closure as a player,” Bosh said of his induction. “It was very tough, not being able to play. I saw myself at least playing until this age , maybe having one or two more years left in me. It was tough to get over. I had identified totally with being a basketball player. That was my everyday thing. I had no idea how much time I was putting into the game until after it was gone.”
Bosh was an 11-time All-Star in his 13 seasons, averaging 19.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. And he developed into the stretch-4 that every NBA team covets, becoming a knockdown 3-point shooter later in his career. Bosh was fully prepared to take full rein in Miami when James returned to Cleveland and eventually Wade signed with the Bulls, but it never happened.
“I had to deal with that pretty much like a loss because it is,” Bosh said. “And then going back straight to the carpool and being there for my family because those are the things that really helped me kind of transition because there were so many things that needed to be done. I fell right into that and it was great for me.
“Even though losing the game was tough, I think this [Hall of Fame] definitely gives me closure. I wanted to do more and I’m still able to be with my heroes and I didn’t even get to finish what I had in mind.
“I’m able to put that to rest and enjoy being here.”
Meanwhile, Chris Webber waited eight years for his induction. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 1993 and appeared headed for a brilliant career before injuries plagued him in his later years. Because he did not win a championship, never even reaching an NBA Finals, Webber’s career and contributions have been overlooked.
The Hall of Fame incorporates all basketball accomplishments into induction, meaning Webber’s high school accomplishments and being the central figure of the Fab Five at the University of Michigan helped his candidacy. Like Bosh, Webber’s prowess cannot be overlooked, and he’s finally being given his deserved respect.
“I was the youngest player in the NBA for two years in a row,” he said. “It was a different time, a different era. When I see those highlights [of a young Webber], it’s joy. The athletic ability, I look at maturity, I look on how I had to work on my game after injury. When I look at everything that I’ve been through, I think I’m proud of the consistency and that every night I had to play at a high level.”
Webber is now 48 and a standout basketball analyst, but his troubles from his time at Michigan still hinder his legacy. The school took down the two Final Four banners because of NCAA violations and Webber was banned from the campus or affiliation for 10 years.
He has also had issues with Fab Five teammate Jalen Rose, although they are working on mending their relationship. Webber didn’t have anything easy, but he has continued to deal with his obstacles with grace.
“I really did enjoy the journey,” he said. “The ups and downs that came with it. I think everyone has to understand my perspective. I would have cut off my right finger to be in this position, to go through everything I’ve done. If you would have told me at 12 that I would be here and I would have to go through something in sports that people many outside of sports have to go through real things in their life, I would have said, ‘Thank you, I’ll take that blessing every time.’ ”
Getting to NBA anything but guaranteed for Pierce
It’s Paul Pierce Hall of Fame weekend and we talked with the Celtics legend about his remarkable career. He touched on a variety of subjects and was brutally honest about the decisions that helped build his Hall of Fame résumé.
During Pierce’s high school days in Inglewood, Calif., UCLA was the most popular choice for West Coast players. The school was experiencing a resurgence and won the NCAA title in 1995, the year Pierce graduated high school. But he said he was underwhelmed by UCLA’s recruiting, despite the fact he was living in the school’s backyard.
“I remember my senior year going to a lot of UCLA games or USC pretty much every weekend,” he said. “I think one reason I didn’t go to UCLA is because I was getting recruited. Jim Harrick was the head coach, but I’m doing all the talking to the assistants [at UCLA]. When I’m talking to all these other coaches, I’m talking to Lute Olson at Arizona, Roy Williams [at Kansas], I’m talking to the head coach.
“It was something about UCLA I didn’t trust. They were recruiting not only me but they were recruiting everybody in my position. All the top juniors were at my position. Schea Cotton, Corey Benjamin, and Toby Bailey [the year prior], Tommie Prince. They tried to sign everybody that was the top guys.
“When I had my visit to Kansas, it was just something about Roy when we had the conversation that felt real.”
On Pierce’s trip to Kansas, his conversation with Williams did not go as expected.
“When Roy recruited me he said, ‘I can’t even offer you a starting spot,’ ” Pierce said. “I was like, ‘What? What?!’ He talked more education. I just felt like I’m going to go there and prove to him I’m going to start. It was the challenge of it. When I went to the [Kansas] game, that solidified it.”
Pierce was asked whether he ever thought about being inducted in Springfield. And the answer was a resounding no.
“Nobody ever says they want to be a Hall of Famer,” he said. “It’s you want to make it to college or make it to the NBA or make it to McDonald’s [high school all-star game] or make it to a certain [Division 1] college or you want to win a championship. When I look back at it and see the road to get there, I never would have thought it because it was never in my mind.”
What is fascinating to Pierce followers is that he transferred out of Inglewood High for a few weeks prior to his sophomore season. He actually joined powerhouse Crenshaw following a unsatisfying summer league stint for Inglewood. Crenshaw was the best program in California from the 1970s to the ‘90s.
“So my old junior high school coach got an assistant coaching job at Crenshaw and he asked me to go to Crenshaw,” Pierce said. “Me not knowing that all these other guys transferred in from other schools and they started building their powerhouse again.”
When his junior varsity coach, Patrick Roy, was promoted to varsity coach, Pierce returned to Inglewood just before school started.
“The reason I came back to Inglewood was because of Roy. I was going to Crenshaw,” Pierce said. “Roy was my JV coach. He was like a big brother. Our relationship was so close, even when we weren’t playing, there were so many times I sat in the office and talking to him, like a brother. It was weird how we just bonded. I always felt like I was in his office just hanging with him or talking to him.”
Roy, who was just 22 when he took the Inglewood job, was able to help keep Pierce out of trouble and focused on basketball. He was also helped by Scott Collins, an Inglewood police officer. Pierce does not have a relationship with his biological father.
“A lot of [staying out of trouble] had to do with the people I surrounded myself with,” Pierce said. “I didn’t really have a bunch of friends, but the friends that I had were guys on the team, Coach Roy and Scott Collins, my mentor. This is what I tell kids today: You have to surround yourself with people who are positive influences on you.
“Growing up in the ‘hood where there’s gangs and drugs, it’s easy to be influenced by all of that. I catch the bus everywhere, I’m seeing crime.
“And having a strong-willed mom, she didn’t take [expletive]. But she had to work two jobs, it would have been easy for me to do whatever I want. I had some good father figures in my life.”
The combination of Pierce and Antoine Walker made Celtics basketball quite enjoyable, even if they didn’t win all the time. Pierce and Walker will always share a bond as they attempted to resurrect the franchise.
“Antoine was my guy,” Pierce said. “The crazy thing about it is I looked at him like a vet, but he’s only one year older than me. It was like we was really the same class. He took me under his wing. He took me out. We did everything together. When I made the All-Star team, we drove down together.
“When I came into the league, Antoine was established. I’m looking like Antoine’s the man. I’m trying to figure out how to be the man.”
When the Celtics traded Walker to the Mavericks in 2003 and began to dismantle their team, Pierce wondered if he would stay in Boston. He began wondering about playing for other teams until he had a conversation with majority owner Wyc Grousbeck in 2005.
“I remember Wyc saying, ‘Paul, I want you here,’ ” he said. “He gave me the confidence that I was going to be there and they wanted to build around me. ‘I’m not trying to trade you and we’re going to win a championship with you here.’
“I wasn’t sure what Danny [Ainge] wanted, but the owner gave me the stamp. I remember that. When we made that trade for Ray [Allen], that solidified it. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we really trying to do something now.’ ”
Who was the first person to tell Pierce the Celtics were going to trade for Kevin Garnett? It was Walker, Garnett’s buddy from their Chicago days.
“I heard that from Antoine, he was like, ‘I think you’re gonna get KG,’ ” Pierce said. “That influence from KG coming came from Chauncey [Billups] and Ty Lue. I told Kevin two years before the deal that you need to come to Boston. He was so loyal to [the Timberwolves], he was stubborn. He never wanted to leave. I was like, ‘Man, you’re going to keep losing to the Lakers. They aren’t going to put the pieces around you. You’re going to be frustrated.’ In his head, he had a light click. He’s stubborn sometimes to a fault.”
While Pierce said he understood his 2013 trade to Brooklyn, he felt the Celtics could have retooled for one more title run. He said he did not agree with Ainge’s decision to trade him and Garnett because it would not guarantee a championship. The Celtics haven’t reached the NBA Finals since the trade.
“I wanted to end my career in Boston,” Pierce said. “That’s why that was difficult. I’ve been there my whole career and win a championship finally.
“I remember the conversation when they talked about they kept [Larry] Bird too long and it hurt the rebuilding process. That’s overthinking it to me. Did it make the rebuilding process a little shorter? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to guarantee another championship.”
Pierce wasn’t finished with great moments following his Celtics years. He hit big shots for Brooklyn, Washington, and even the Clippers, including his final shot at TD Garden, a perfect capper to his career.
“It’s not going to sink in until I see my name engraved in the Hall and my kids are going to be able to see it, basketball immortality right there,” he said. “I wasn’t thought of as the second coming. I was happy to go Division 1. I was always an underdog.”
The NBA career of standout center Marc Gasol is likely over after the burly big man was traded from the Lakers to his original team, the Grizzlies. Memphis was able to procure a second-round pick and will agree to a buyout for Gasol. The 36-year-old appeared to be losing steam while with the Raptors during the seven-game playoff series in 2020 when the Celtics almost asked him to shoot open 3-pointers. He squeezed out another year with the Lakers but was unseated by the midseason acquisition of Andre Drummond. Los Angeles offered more signs that Gasol wouldn’t be back when it added Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan in the offseason. Gasol will remain in Spain with his family, but he had a stellar career, including a Defensive Player of the Year award and an NBA title. Gasol’s No. 33 is likely to be retired in Memphis and he is also considered one of the great international players of all time . . . A potential Celtics free agent target could be Chicago’s Zach LaVine, who is entering the final year of his contract. He will have to prove he can lead the Bulls to the playoffs before a contract extension. LaVine changed representation recently and signed with Klutch Sports, which is usually the move for players who want to maximize their free agent potential. LaVine, 26, just coming off helping Team USA to the gold medal, will ask for a maximum contract in the open market. The Olympic experience may have enhanced LaVine’s value because he was asked to be a three-and-D player, sparking the Americans with his full-court defense and ability to run the floor. In the case that Bradley Beal decides to stay in Washington, LaVine could be the Celtics’ No. 1 target. The Bulls, who added DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball in the offseason, have full intentions to be a factor in the Eastern Conference . . . Former No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor is just 25 but will be looking for another NBA home after being waived by the Nets, who acquired him from the Pistons. Okafor was considered a can’t-miss prospect while at Duke, but he soon fell out of favor because of his lack of perimeter shooting ability and athleticism.