By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"Naw, man," Bosh says sheepishly in one of Phelps' vacant rooms. "Nobody calls me that."
Then what? The Dunking Dallasite? SuperBosh?
"Chris," he says with a shrug. "I know. Real flashy, huh?"
Kinda like Bosh himself. Not stylish but certainly substantial.
Unlike many of today's NBA stars, with Bosh you get no posse or drugs or bar fights or paternity suits or big ego. His drink is bottled water. His high school gang went by the name "National Honor Society." His vice: Blue Bell ice cream.
"I guess I was pretty strict on him," says Noel, 47, who divides his time among jobs as a plumbing designer, foundation volunteer and fiery youth minister specializing in addiction counseling at Dallas' South Central Church of Christ. "But he turned out pretty good. I didn't have to spank him after the sixth grade. I take some satisfaction out of his upbringing, of course. I couldn't ask for a better son."
Says Bosh, "I learned to do a lot of things myself because of him. Cut the grass. Fix things around the house. Save money. They were chores, but he convinced me they were obligations."
Born almost nine pounds and 20 inches, Bosh lived in Hutchins until the family moved to Lancaster when he was 15. The only lefty on the family tree, his athletic potential was uniquely noticeable.
"I knew he was going to be special when I was pregnant," says Freida, a computer systems analyst and the engine behind her son's foundation. "Some moms say they feel a kick. I felt jumps. I gained 75 pounds with him. And soon as he was born he hit the ground running."
Raised in church and reared on character, the Bosh boys--Chris is now 22, Joel 20--rarely found trouble. Except, that is, when Freida was an accessory to a series of household crimes. She gave the boys a Nerf basketball hoop, the one with the foam ball and the plastic hoop that attaches to flat surfaces via suction cups.
"I'd hear this loud crash from their bedroom, and sure enough, they knocked the closet door down again," says Noel, sitting outside the gym's front doors. "I bet I fixed that sucker 20 times. I'd start to get mad at 'em, but I realized they were just playing the game they loved."
Actually Joel, a starter at Alabama State in Montgomery, shares his brother's skill but apparently not his will.
"With him it's kinda take it or leave it," Noel says. "But with Chris, he's always been so focused."
So determined was Bosh to be around basketball that he kept Dad playing in a church league even when the old man's knees and jump shot begged him to quit.
"I could always see the spark in his eyes when it was time to go to the gym," Noel says. "Without him I'd have just sat around and done nothing."
Through their work for the foundation, the parents have found a way to keep close to their Toronto-based son. When Chris last summer signed a three-year contract extension worth $65 million--that should buy enough back-to-school rulers for at least another year--he pleased Mom by announcing a $1 million donation to a Toronto charity, Community Legacy Programs, and by establishing the Chris Bosh Foundation Book Club of Canada.
"This event is only the culmination of what the foundation does year-round," says Freida, who has an oral contract with Chris to read and discuss a new book each month during the season. "It's amazing what he's able to do and how many people he's helping. He's just a good boy."
Chris even asks Dad for advice, despite Noel's track record of father knows worst. He was vehemently against Chris transferring to Lincoln (a magnet school), attending Georgia Tech (in Atlanta) and settling down in Toronto (where?). In other words, he's 0-for-3.
"I still care what he thinks," Bosh says. "Doesn't mean I'm gonna follow through with it automatically."
Says Noel, "I've learned to trust his gut instincts. If he'd spent his life trying to please me, he wouldn't be where he is today."
And where exactly is Bosh? For now, he drives around in an un-pimped Chevy Avalanche SUV and lives in a South Side on Lamar loft apartment overlooking the Trinity River into his beloved Oak Cliff. Within the next few weeks he'll move into a million-dollar house in DeSoto, just a couple Tiger Woods' 2-irons from the gaudy mansions of Spud Webb and Tim Brown on Thorntree Country Club.
That's the beauty of Bosh--money, manners and moderation. "My biggest thrill is making people happy," he says. "Especially these kids. I see a lot of me in them, and it's a no-brainer to help them out."
Says Freida as she navigates the packed hallway toward the formal ceremony inside the gym, "Of all the things he's done, my proudest moments are when he graduated high school with honors and when he comes back to help the kids."