The retrospective I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Redeem Team for Yahoo Sports gave me the chance to have some fun basketball conversations with a handful of fascinating hoopheads, one of whom was Chris Bosh, so I had to ask him for his best Kevin Garnett story.
Bosh will never forget. It was a snowy afternoon in Toronto, the second game of the 2007-08 season. His Raptors were the defending Atlantic Division champions, and the Celtics were in town for the first time since acquiring Garnett and Ray Allen that summer. He was 23 years old, coming off two straight All-Star appearances, and he was looking forward to the challenge.
“Them getting together shook up the league,” said Bosh, “and everybody was very worried.”
He had missed half of training camp with a left foot injury and was still working his way into game shape. “That’s when I found out, yeah, you know training camp sucks, but it’s very important,” said Bosh. “You’ve got to be ready, and I wasn’t ready at that point.” He missed his first eight shots, stretching into the fourth quarter, and Garnett was letting him hear about it.
Bosh usually made a point not to engage KG, reminding himself, “I”m not falling for it,” but “this one particular day he got under my skin, and we were just going back and forth, and he said something to me. It wasn’t vulgar or anything. It was actually a good one. He said something to me, and when I tell you I couldn’t even think straight, I was all over the place. I was just upset.”
What did KG say? “He called me a mama’s boy,” said Bosh. “Forget all the cursing. He said, ‘You a mama’s boy,’ and I was like, ‘What?!?! WHAT?!?!’ Oh, Jesus, I lost it, man. It was funny.”
The game went to overtime when Paul Pierce missed (what else) an elbow jumper as regulation expired. The way Bosh remembered it, KG scored on him three times in a row. It stuck with the 11-time All-Star enough that he checked the tape last year. It was worse than he remembered.
“He scored four times in a row on me, nine points straight, and I had never been dominated like that,” said Bosh. “It was so embarrassing. He turned it up, put a couple moves on me, started using that strength, and there was nothing I could do. He started giving me that shimmy shake.
“The first move, he went right shoulder. Second move, he went left to the middle, spun off me, bank shot. And one. Then, he did the shimmy again, went right shoulder again. Then, he did the shimmy again, went left shoulder and pump-faked me. I went for it. I couldn’t sleep for weeks.
“That had never happened to me, and that’s when I knew there was another level to this game that I hadn’t reached. It was obvious — just strength, stamina, focus, everything. I never forgot that lesson. It’s funny looking back on it now, but at the time I was really, really worked up.”
Bosh ran into Garnett last year and asked him if he remembered that game. “We were laughing about it,” said Bosh. Then, KG started running through all the guys he drove nuts with his antics.
“I was like, ‘Yo, I’m glad you’re admitting this,’ because it would be a wrestling match every time,” added Bosh, who like KG served as a studio analyst for TNT last season. “The refs let him get away with everything. That was kind of just the physical nature that inspired everything.”
Bosh got the last laugh against Garnett in 2011 and 2012, when his Heat knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs in back-to-back years. By then, it was his arrival in Miami along with LeBron James that shook up the league and had everybody worried. Except for the C’s, of course.
“They almost got us,” Bosh said when I brought up the Eastern Conference finals in 2012, when the aging Celtics took the Heat to seven games. “They had us on the ropes. Not that you couldn’t believe it, but their style at the time was unorthodox, and it was still like, ‘How are they doing this?’ You look at the scouting report, and it’s like, ‘OK, we should be able to take care of business tonight and do what we need to do,’ and somehow they just figure out some kind of way to get the job done. …. They were always motivated, just a tough bunch of guys to play against. It was legendary battles with those guys, and that’s what makes the game fun.”
We remember LeBron’s performance in Game 6, when he played the Celtics to the tune of 45 points and 15 rebounds in the Garden, forcing a win-or-go-home showdown back in Miami. But we forget Bosh, battling an abdominal strain, coming off the bench to sink the C’s in Game 7.
“It was one of the only times that I knew I wasn’t going to miss that night,” said Bosh.
He was so in rhythm at shootaround before Game 7, he began dialing up his shot difficulty. “And boom,” he said, “it goes in.” He cut his session short in hopes of saving his bullets for that night and turned to his friend. “I remember telling him, ‘I don’t think I’m going to miss tonight, man.’”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever,” the friend fired back.
“That made me mad a little more,” said Bosh. “He knew what he was doing.”
Bosh nearly didn’t miss. After having made just 10 3-pointers all season, Bosh sunk three out of nowhere in Game 7 — the last of which put Miami up four with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter. The Celtics never got within a single possession again. When all was said and done, Bosh scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from all over the floor, enough to prove the difference in a 101-88 win that drove a stake through a 2012 Celtics team with grit, balls and a championship heart.
This time, KG couldn’t rattle him with a well-timed “mama’s boy.” Bosh learned his lesson well.