Miami Heat

Chris Bosh captivates AmericanAirlines Arena with speech as Heat retires his No. 1 jersey

Miami Heat retires Chris Bosh’s jersey

The Miami Heat retired former player Chris Bosh’s jersey during the halftime of an NBA basketball game between the Heat and the Orland Magic at the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami on March 26, 2019.
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The Miami Heat retired former player Chris Bosh’s jersey during the halftime of an NBA basketball game between the Heat and the Orland Magic at the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami on March 26, 2019.

Pure adrenaline coursed through Chris Bosh’s body as the Miami Heat lifted his No. 1 into the AmericanAirlines Arena rafters at halftime of the Heat’s 104-99 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

“I felt like I could’ve jumped up there and grabbed it myself,” Bosh said at a press conference shortly after engrossing the sold-out crowd with a 12-minute speech to commemorate his jersey retirement.

For 10 minutes, Bosh reminded everyone why he’s one of the most beloved Miami sports figures in history and was an absolute no-brainer to have his jersey retired by the Heat. It goes beyond the two championships, four NBA Finals appearances and six All-Star Game appearances he made in his six years in Miami. He was always known for his energy and his personality, and for 10 minutes he reminded every about why he’s such a Heat legend.

With his wife, father and three of his kids in attendance, Bosh began by thanking owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley, whom he first met ahead of the 2003 NBA draft, when the Toronto Raptors selected Bosh at No. 4 and Miami took Dwyane Wade a pick later.

“Unfortunately for him, he had the fifth pick and I went at four, so he had to settle for this kid named D-Wade,” Bosh said, “and D, I’ve got to tell you man, sorry about beating you to this jersey retirement thing. I had to beat you at something.”

Former Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh talks to the media about turning 35 during a press conference before the start of an NBA basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Orland Magic at the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami.

Quickly, he started talking about Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, when he helped save the Heat’s season by grabbing an offensive rebound and assisting Ray Allen on his famous game-tying three-pointer.

“I’ve always been a rebounder,” Bosh said. He was referring not just to his on-court career, but what he’s done off the court, as well. Being a rebounder means being a fighter and he learned to be a rebounder from his grandfather, whom everyone affectionately calls “Daddy Jack.” Daddy Jack Bosh became a businessman and landowner in Texas in the era of the Jim Crow laws. He had a rebounder’s attitude.

Bosh shared a story of his time in the hospital in 2016, when his blood-clot condition first surfaced and he was struggling to even walk. One day, the team delivered thousands of letters to Bosh at the hospital — get-well-soon wishes from fans.

“I want you to know that I read those,” Bosh said. “Those letters pushed me to get back on the court. Those letters inspired me to get back up and walk across the room when I didn’t have the energy to do it, when I didn’t think I could do it.

“This whole process, picking me up when I was down, that’s what Miami is to me. That’s what it is to me. Miami is more than what meets the eye.”

Former Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh talks to the media about his thoughts on his jersey being retired during a press conference before the start of an NBA basketball game between the Miami Heat and the Orland Magic at the AmericanAirlines Arena.

He thanked the concession workers and janitors at the AAA. He thanked the security guards who would ask about his kids every time he walked into the arena and he thanked all the working-class Miamians who would finish their days by watching the Heat.

Then he switched to Spanish.

“Calle Ocho!” Bosh yelled to a roar from the crowd, then, in Spanish, he relayed a message to, “mis hermanos y hermanas Latinoamericano.”

“I just wanted to show the respect to our Latin-American fans because the fan base is so strong and I wanted to have a message that they could understand,” Bosh said after the speech. “They didn’t have to hit the button on the bottom of the screen to at least listen to the whole speech. They can hear that one part and be like, ‘Man, I like that guy.’”

Bosh finished the speech in a way only he could. The name on the back of the jersey in the rafters is important to him because it’s the same name his wife and children have, too. Even though there’s no name on the front, he’d like to imagine “Heat” is written there to represent the whole fan base.

Finally, he punctuated the speech the way he punctuated so many of the games he played in this arena: He screamed to the crowd one last time.

“It’s crazy just to be able to dream something for so long and then it manifest in real life.” “It’s a crazy, crazy thing, but it’s a huge honor.”

Bosh also spoke about the jersey retirement at a press conference before the game. Here’s some of what he said:

On what it’s meant to be back around the Heat this season: “I’ve watched a few games and it’s kind of been cool being able to reconnect, being able to walk the old hallways and not have to actually get up early in the morning and listen to coach [Erik Spoelstra] lecture us on the rotations of the Miami Heat defense. It’s a grind, man. But it’s been great just to be able to be here and celebrate this moment.”

Bosh said he never thought he would be getting his jersey retired just a few years ago when he was fighting to get back on the court. “It was the furthest thing on my mind. I didn’t even think of retirement. ... For everything to happen so fast, it just shows you how things can change. I’m humbled. I’m grateful for the experience that I’ve had here and in the league as a whole. I have a different mindset now because although we all do something and we get to experience things, you have to cherish it because you never know when it’s going to stop.”

Bosh said he’s “100 percent at peace” with the fact he’s played his final NBA game. “I’ve been at peace for a while. I knew I didn’t want to play basketball because I was just thinking about things you have to go through with your body. Looking at these young guys now and teams shooting 90 something shots per game, I don’t want to get in shape for that. Spo talking about body fat again for another day, it’s like, ‘Nah, I’ll be alright.’ But seriously, just kind of going through my process and understanding that there are other things outside of basketball and my family needing me. That was what was most important.”

There are still times Bosh thinks about what the Heat could have accomplished if his playing career wouldn’t have abruptly ended because of blood clots. “Every day. But it makes me work harder for other things. We always go through what if. For me, I was very excited the last year that I played. I felt like we had a damn good team. I felt like with our style of play, we could have competed for an NBA championship. It was very important for me and my ego just to bring that team to prominence. We didn’t get that chance, I didn’t get that chance. But it’s kind of like a bittersweet thing for me when I think about that because you have to move on from what ifs. You can’t always live like that.”

Does Bosh think he was underrated as a player?: “Of course I was underrated. But I think that was a part of it. I wasn’t able to have that playoff experience early. I was trying, and I wasn’t able to have that same exposure that normal NBA players get because I was on the only team outside of the USA. It’s different, and you find yourself always trying to vie for attention saying, ‘Hey, man, I’m really good too.’ That’s how I felt all the time. By the time I got here, I was kind of a known unknown, and then I had to change my game. ... But I like it like that because people need to do their homework. Just do your homework. If you’re a historian of the game and understand the game, then you know.”

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.

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