farewell, chris bosh

We all had to believe that this day would come. Any serious Raptors fan had to know that Chris Bosh would not remain in Toronto forever, especially after how this past season deteriorated so quickly in the post-All Star weeks of the season.

By now, we all know that Bosh has committed to sign with Miami, jumping at the opportunity to play with Dwyane Wade and pursue an NBA title [and as of 9 am this morning, the word is that LeBron is on his way to South Beach as well]. On one hand, I can’t really say that I blame him. Unlike Tracy McGrady [who said he would stay but didn’t] and Vince Carter [who essentially quit and threw the franchise under the bus by demanding a trade], it’s not difficult to see why he would want to play elsewhere. Colangelo and Co. have tried but failed in their quest to surround him with legitimate title-contending playoff-qualifying talent. Poor drafting, miscalculated trades and free agent busts have left this team in a bit of a mess with no perceivable identity or game plan, and I can understand why Chris Bosh would not want to invest any more of his career in the hopes that this all might somehow come together in the near future. In fact, the deal that sent Jermaine O’Neal to the Heat for Shawn Marion last season afforded the Heat some of the cap space necessary to reshape their team in this way. Nice work.

In short, after seven good years in Toronto [personally if not for the team as a whole], Bosh has earned the right to test the waters of free agency and dock his boat elsewhere. As Bruce Arthur and Steve Simmons note, Bosh really had no other choice but the leave.

Having said that, there are a couple of things that really bothered me about Bosh’s foray into free agency. First, on a philosophical level, I take issue with the fact that he has always said that he wanted to be the THE man, the focal point of his team. In tossing that aspiration aside to become Wade’s sidekick [Wade and LeBron’s third wheel] in Miami demonstrates that perhaps Bosh has realized that he is not that kind of player, and that much of what he said in the past was just a bunch of empty smoke blowing. While he could have tried to become the centerpiece of a Raptors [or any other] team that could one day win the NBA title, he has decided that the best chance to make a name for himself is to hitch his wagon to real superstars, and in the end, it’s probably best that the Raptors and their fans not place their faith in a guy who can’t back up what he says.

And then there were the tweets. Leading up to free agency, I really respected Bosh for not talking very much to the media and keeping his cards close to the vest. But then right when the season ended, he put an impromptu poll up asking people where he should sign, and then really took it to a new level in the past 10 days or so, coming across as a kid in a candy shop at the prospect of being wined and dined by prospective clubs. Some have argued that this tweeted excitement was a bit of a slap in the fact to the city of Toronto, the Raptors and the fans, but I think it reeks more of immaturity. He has not come across as very professional, and, as a result, his exit is somewhat marred. Despite his excellent service as a Raptor, my sense is that his antics as a free agent have most fans are saying ‘don’t let the ACC doors hit you in the ass on the way out.’

But in all honesty, I’m not all that busted up about CB4’s departure. While it has been awesome to see him develop into a legitimate NBA superstar, there are no real lasting memories from his time as a Raptor that I will carry with me. There were no playoff series victories and no MVP trophies, but rather some solid numbers year in and year out, 5 All-Star appearances, and one fluky division title that led to just another disappointing first-round exit. I don’t feel the same emotion that I did when Vince bailed. He was the one who truly got me hooked as a fan of this team, and all that has happened since has been an empty search for the few amazing and truly memorable moments [circa 2000-2001] that we fans have experienced in the history of the Raptors.

So, as the Bosh-as-a-Raptor era fades to black, we are left wondering how the pieces will fit together not only for this upcoming season, but also in the next few years and into the future. Who will become the next potential star / leader of this team? What do we have to look forward to? As of right now, a core of Bargnani, Calderon, Turkoglu doesn’t have me planning my route to the ACC for a game let alone planning a parade route. Maybe these three can step out of Bosh’s shadow and surprise, but I’m not holding my breath. However, there is reason to be somewhat excited about the so-called YoungGunz, and, at the very least, I think players like Jack, Derozan, Weems, Davis, Alabi and Johnson will be very fun to watch.

While this whole free agency fiasco and the endless self-aggrandizement that has come with it has turned me off of the NBA a little bit, I remain proud to be a Raptors fan, and will continue to support them no matter what.

At this rate, though, it wouldn’t surprise me to be welcoming a top 3 draft pick to the team in ’11-’12.

Maybe he will be the next one to come.

And, most likely, also eventually to go.

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