By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Bosh possesses Velcro hands, point-guard ball-handling skills, shooting range to 20 feet, uncanny defensive timing and moves in the low post that are as sneaky as they are silky. Bosh's total package is so alluring that it prompted Lakers coach Phil Jackson to get fined for tampering--in the form of heaping public praise on Bosh in an attempt to persuade him to refuse Toronto's extension offer. Bosh's skill set also earned him a prestigious spot on the U.S. squad that settled for bronze in Japan and last season made believers out of the Mavericks as a 29-point, 13-rebound wrecking ball in Toronto's overtime loss February 25 at AAC.
"To me he's already pretty special," Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki said after continually getting beat to the basket by Bosh. "He's going to be a great player in this league."
Bosh's next evolution: stronger in the paint, saturated in the media.
"I've grown up a lot the last three years," Bosh says. "I'm getting stronger. Playing down in the paint in the NBA is no joke. I used to get beat up pretty good. But those days are over."
Says Mitchell, "I don't want to hear all this talk about Chris being the next Kevin Garnett. We just want him to be the next Chris Bosh. That's plenty good enough."
Muzzled by a gym in which "No Dunking" replaces the squares on the white wooden backboards, some of the boys slip on their new sneaks and head out to Bosh's old court. Opposite the 3-on-3 UFC Octagon Match is a violent game of 1-on-6 in which fouls and ball-handling violations are enforced at a leisurely clip that would accelerate Mavs owner Mark Cuban's short trip to insanity.
With their treasured shoes packed neatly away, some players wear only socks. Others go barefoot. And, considering the level of their shorts, each seems convinced the court doubles as a modeling catwalk for boxers. Despite the tree branches guarding the left side of the basket, the 1 1/2-inch crevice through mid-court and the likelihood that they may mimic Bosh's past but not his future, the ballers are--just as Chris once was--content to be ballin'.
Ringing the court, children smile. Parents cry. Charities profit. Chris beams. And from crayons to Converse to computers to compassion, everyone leaves Bosh's block party with a precious commodity.
"All this stuff we're givin' y'all," Bosh yells out, pausing to find a balance between request and demand, "...please use it!"
Only one sight could make today more utopian: The karma train dropping off one of Noel and Chris' old antagonists from that Crass of '92. Even better, if one of their 8-year-old sons snags a Chris Bosh poster and sprints home to hang it on a prominent wall.
Says Chris with a wry smile, "Yeah, I hope they're here."
Yo, bitches, how you like me now?