TORONTO -- It’s not the games Chris Bosh will remember.
It’s not the dunks or the highlight-reel plays that will be filed away in his memory when someone, 20 years from now, asks him about his time with one of the best teams of his generation. The camaraderie, the brotherhood, the silliness: These are the things Bosh and the rest of his Heat teammates will hold close and cherish.
For example, Shane Battier’s speech on Day 1 of the winning streak will be etched into Bosh’s consciousness forever.
It was a joke, more than anything, Battier’s spontaneous oration on the team bus from a sports bar in Toronto to the airport. The Heat had just watched the Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. That the team was even allowed to stay in Toronto a few extra hours after defeating the Raptors was a break in NBA custom the team will never forget.
Sensing the significance of the moment, feeling the pulse of the room so to speak, Battier rose to his feet on the team bus and delivered what Mario Chalmers would later call, jokingly, a speech to “touch the people.”
“I don’t remember it exactly,” Bosh said. “He hit a whole bunch of points, everything, life. It was just having fun, man. [Battier] could be a politician if he wanted to be. He was just talking crap, but it was fun.”
You want to know what moves a team to win 21 consecutive games during the slog of an NBA season that is February and March? It’s not “energy commitment,” as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likes to say when he’s in front of a microphone. It’s not the desire to win games at all costs. Everyone wants to win games, but only three teams in NBA history have won at least 21 games in a row.
The inspiration is as simple as it is complex — fun.
Fun is not needing two overtimes to defeat the Sacramento Kings. Fun is Dwyane Wade and LeBron James cleaning the shelves of every costume store in Miami for a Harlem Shake video.
Fun is not grinding out a four-point victory on the second night of a back-to-back in Philadelphia. Fun is James doing the robot dance through the middle of Bosh’s postgame interview in Milwaukee.
Fun is why every school in America has a basketball goal on its playground. Fun is why James throws down pregame dunks during warmups like a kid goofing off on a blacktop somewhere back in Akron, Ohio.
On Friday in Milwaukee, Battier was pressed by a reporter to divulge the details of that speech he delivered way back on Feb. 3. Since his words on that team bus, the Heat has won 20 games in a row, the most difficult of which might have been the first, a 99-94 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats less than 24 hours after the Heat crowded into Real Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Toronto. “I can’t give the same speech twice,” Battier said. “It’s like a rainbow. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
“I’m just going to let that speech be. Let it be. That’s the beauty of it.”
As Bosh recalls, Battier rambled on aimlessly with a tongue-and-cheek nod to political discourse. The words weren’t important, but the underlying message was profound. Bosh remembers one phrase distinctly.
“He was like, ‘When I’m done playing, you guys are going to miss me,’ ” Bosh said. “If I took anything away from it, that was it.