Dallas hoops legend comes home to spread good in the 'hood

Surprise! The most popular leader in this neighborhood isn't Bush, but Bosh.

"He's my favorite player, but the Mavs are my favorite team," 13-year-old Terion Ford says between gulps of Gatorade. So, Terion, you must be torn. When Bosh's Raptors play your Dallas Mavericks, who do you root for? Deadpans Terion at 10:40 a.m., "Uh, both I guess. Do you know when Chris is gettin' here?"

Bosh isn't scheduled to show up until 11:15. But he arrived in 2002.

Finding dirt on Chris Bosh--here, doing the role model thing for some southern Dallas kids--is like finding clean on Ron Jeremy.
Brian Harkin
Finding dirt on Chris Bosh--here, doing the role model thing for some southern Dallas kids--is like finding clean on Ron Jeremy.
Dirk Nowitzki saw Bosh's potential after Bosh continually beat him to the basket in a game last season.
Courtesy of Toronto Raptors
Dirk Nowitzki saw Bosh's potential after Bosh continually beat him to the basket in a game last season.

Never dreaming he'd someday rewrite the illustrious history of Big D's big men, Bosh began honing his skills in shirts-and-skins-and-scratches pick-up games at Phelps, Highland Hills Recreation Center and Hutchins Park. Built more Manute Bol than Shaquille O'Neal, Bosh and his wiry frame struggled even to make the freshman team at Lincoln. In the middle of his junior season, however, it clicked. He grew into his feet. Put on 10 pounds of muscle. His left-handed shot matured into a caress.

Basketball evolved into Boshketball.

"He just dominated," Lincoln coach Leonard Bishop says inside Phelps' gym. "He did what he wanted, when he wanted, at both ends of the court."

After a junior season in which he led Lincoln to a 32-3 record and third place in the state tournament, Bosh morphed from boy to man to monster. Averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks per game as a senior, he powered Lincoln to a 40-0 record, the Class 4A State Championship and the national No. 1 ranking by USA Today. He capped his career with a 23-point, 17-rebound, 9-block performance in the title game, earning Texas' "Mr. Basketball" and McDonald's All-American.

"Looking back now," says Bosh, "it's still like a dream."

He must similarly succeed in the NBA if he hopes to top the list of all-time best Dallas products. The incumbent remains Larry Johnson, who bulled his way from Red Bird Rec Center to Skyline High School to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks, where he played for championships, received a record $84 million contract and parlayed his charisma into the wildly popular Converse TV commercial character, "Grandmamma."

Somewhat soothing the pain of the Mavericks' frustrating, no, their maddening lack of a championship, DISD schools have regularly born fertile front-court fruit since Johnson in the early '90s. Greg Ostertag (Duncanville), Kurt Thomas (Hillcrest), Tony Battie (South Oak Cliff), Kenyon Martin (Bryan Adams) and Ike Diogu (Garland) have each been first-round NBA draft picks with productive careers. And this season, Seagoville's LaMarcus Aldridge was drafted second overall by the Portland Trailblazers.

"Dallas is definitely on the basketball map," says Bosh, who grew up attending Mavericks games during The Three J's Era but admired more the understated, underrated styles of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. "I just hope I have a career that keeps up and catches up with those other guys."

Today, though, Bosh is definitely the hunted.

Christmas in September arrives precisely at 11:30, just after Engine No. 38 parts the dance contest to make an emergency run and just as the 3-on-3 basketball game is rounding physical and headed for fisticuffs. Santa Claus shows up not in a sleigh but a cream-colored Escalade stretch limo. He is fashionably late, yes, but to those desperately searching for a positive role model or for those who waited three hours for T.O. to make a cameo at his football camps, Bosh is right on time.

Emerging in a red T-shirt, denim jorts, doorknob diamonds in each earlobe and customized blue Cons with "Texas Boy" emblazoned on the heel, Bosh is immediately engulfed by his flock.

Under the surveying sunglasses of personal security chief Jonathon McClinton, Chris signs autographs, poses for cell-phone camera pictures, shakes hands and kisses his baby--Mom Freida. Miss Plus America (longtime family friend Ann Rogers) is here in her crown. And 4-year-old Andrea "A.J." Strong is here in her crying. Reminiscent of Jeff Van Gundy clinging onto Alonzo Mourning in the '98 NBA Playoffs, A.J. runs and clutches Bosh's leg as though bracing for a spring tornado.

Finally calm enough to verbally express her affection, A.J. sniffles, "Because...I' seeee him."

Says McClinton, "He gets recognized everywhere we go in Dallas. But he's such a class act and so humble, he always makes time. The kid just doesn't have any enemies."

But, boy, does he have friends. Close, protective friends. Who make finding dirt on Bosh harder than discovering clean on Ron Jeremy.

"You're not gonna find much," says younger brother Joel, parading through the gym while playfully nibbling on his oversized gold cross pendant. "With him, it's all good."

Oh yeah? What about this cocky nickname, "CB4"? It's on some of Bosh's posters, and Freida even has it plastered on her jersey. More than just a hip collaboration between Bosh's initials and uniform number, it evolved from an old Chris Rock rapumentary about a fictional group parodying N.W.A., which we all know--well, don't we?--stands for Niggaz With Attitude.

In the movie--think Spinal Tap with humor--the gangsta group performs in prison cell block No. 4. Not exactly 50 Cent tough, but surely the moniker fuels Bosh with an alter-ego, or at least a hard edge? Right?

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