- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Chris Bosh has to duck his head to get through the double steel doors of XIV, a trendy restaurant nestled along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, which is usually frequented by celebrities looking to get their pictures taken by the paparazzi camped outside.
Bosh, holding hands with his girlfriend, Adrienne Williams, as they walk into the dimly lit restaurant, is used to cameras by now. In fact, it's safe to say he almost relishes them at this point. Before dinner, he did interviews with E! and "Entertainment Tonight," as well as chatted up a couple of entertainment blogs that were more interested in his height than recently changing teams.
If Bosh felt as though he was unnoticed and unappreciated in the United States while he played in Toronto (he did and still does), he has certainly made up for lost time since signing with the Miami Heat and forming an alliance with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
No one has benefited more from the creation of this hardwood conglomerate than Bosh, who was almost invisibly averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for a Toronto Raptors team that made the playoffs only twice in his seven seasons there, never making it out of the first round. He's never been named to the All-NBA First Team and only made it on the second team once three years ago. Yet, there he is now, being compared with the greats because, well, he is now surrounded with the greats.
Michael Jordan's contention that he would never call up Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to team with them may be deemed as a knock at James but it may be the greatest compliment ever paid to Bosh, regardless of which hall-of-famer he's supposed to be in that analogy.
Now that he's signed a six-year, $110.1 million contract with the Heat (the same as James' and slightly more than Wade's) Bosh is set as a basketball player and believes his place in history will be determined by how many rings they will win. Until the season starts, however, he has slightly shifted his focus toward building his brand and image off the court.
While James and Wade are internationally known on and off the court, Bosh's reach probably extends only to our neighbors to the north. He joked the ESPYS were his third time presenting at an award show but the first in the United States. Indeed, while James and Wade were at the MTV Video Music Awards, Bosh was mingling with Avril Lavigne at the MuchMusic Awards.
Maybe that's why Bosh has set up this private dinner in a curtained off room at XIV, where he has invited some friends and family along with Hollywood types (if Vivica Fox and Elise Neal can still be called that) to break bread and mingle.
"I'm trying to explore different avenues," Bosh said. "There is so much available to me now and I'm just trying to see what's out there, really. There's nothing really complicated about it. This all happened at a certain time and I'm trying to be more social with different guys in different cities."
It's a stark contrast to the Bosh I first met when he entered the league seven years ago out of Georgia Tech. Back then Bosh was just trying to figure out how to survive in Canada. When we spoke, there was a blizzard taking place in Toronto and the more I spoke to him the more I saw him as a bookworm (he wore a plaid shirt tucked into his jeans and had his cell phone attached to his hip) than an NBA player worried about his image.
"I always wanted to be a graphic designer," he told me at the time. "I wanted to get into web design and multimedia. I still get intrigued when I look at different websites and wonder what kind of code they put in. I'm into all kinds of technology. When I was in school my favorite subject was math. I took algebra, calculus. I just loved breaking the codes and solving problems."
Bosh's love for technology (he was one of the first athletes to take advantage of Twitter and YouTube) and curiosity haven't changed even though his wardrobe has been upgraded significantly. Bosh invited an investment banker he met the night before while bowling, because he wanted to learn more about the stock market and know what books he should read to become well-versed in the field.
"For me it's finding out what I like right now," he said. "I want my brand to be genuine and to let people know that I'm conscious and aware of it. I think sometimes guys try to do the whole global-branding thing and they really don't understand it. I do understand it, and I try to be conscious of it and work on it in every city that I'm in. I don't go around talking about it too much. I just represent it and let it come to me. It's like a nickname. You can't give yourself a nickname. You let the nickname come to you."
As Bosh spoke, waiters brought over bottles of chilled "Ace Of Spades" champagne and everyone at the table raised a toast to Bosh and his new life in Miami. Bosh, who has yet to find a house in Miami, said he'll begin the process soon with his girlfriend and wants to find a place he can raise his family. Until then, he and Williams have had fun attending movie premieres, such as the one for "Inception," thanks to a personal invite by Leonardo DiCaprio after they met at a Lakers game.
DiCaprio may soon be coming to one of Bosh's premieres, as the newest Miami Heat is currently working on a documentary on how he, Wade and James came together in South Beach.
"The documentary is coming along great," he said. "I filmed a lot of footage. I have over 80 hours of footage taped, and I'm just trying to find out a direction and style that I want to incorporate. I might make it into an hour special."
Um, Chris, after the way the last one-hour special featuring a Miami Heat player went, I'm not so sure that's a great idea.
"Well, it could be a two-hour special. It might be a mini-series," he said. "It will have a 24/7 feel but I don't know if it will be narrated or not narrated. It's a bunch of ideas I've been playing with and I've been studying a lot and seeing what's the best avenue to take it in."
Interestingly enough, while the idea of James' "The Decision" came from a conversation with Jim Gray during the NBA Finals in Los Angeles, so did the idea of Bosh' yet-to-be-named documentary. Bosh said he got the idea while talking to Entourage creator and executive producer Doug Ellin and Jerry Ferrera, who plays "Turtle" on the show.
"I've always been into film and art and creative things and I was talking to Doug, who's a good buddy of mine, and Jerry, and he was like you should be documenting this stuff," said Bosh, who was written into an episode of Entourage the next day after talking to Ellin and Ferrera. "I was like, 'You really think people would watch that,' and he and Jerry were like, 'Would we?! Yes! Everyone would watch it!'"
So Bosh recorded everything. He recorded his conversations with Wade, his conversations with James, his meetings with Pat Riley and just about everything else you could imagine even though some teams he met with asked him to stop recording during their meetings.
"I knew this would be a big deal and I thought to myself, 'Somebody needs to be videotaping this stuff,'" he said. "This experience was amazing and I knew I needed to live it to the fullest and do everything. So many people were saying, 'Oh, he's distracted,' but I wasn't. I'll take all that [criticism] because this is important. I'll be able to show my kids this one day and I'll be able to look at it and be like, 'I remember that.' Maybe after we win a billion championships, I'll be able to look back at that and say that's when it all started. I think people will flock to it when it comes out."
Before Bosh can win a "billion championships" he must first get past the current champion, the Los Angeles Lakers, something he is constantly reminded of as he walks in and around the city. After finishing dinner, Bosh and about a dozen guests get into their cars and drive up the street to The Colony, a trendy nightclub recently opened by Sam Nazarian, the founder of SBE, which also owns XIV. Nazarian is celebrating his 35th birthday on this night and, while scantily clad women and Abercrombie & Fitch wannabes beg and plead to get in, Bosh and his party are quickly whisked in by noted celebrity wrangler Josh Richman to a private booth next to Nazarian.
Bosh, who ditched his jacket and changed from his dress shoes to a pair of more dance-comfortable canvas low tops like Mr. Rogers', was then greeted by a pair of waitresses who brought over two bottles of champagne, two bottles of vodka and bucket of Coronas. As he popped open a Corona and inserted the lime, he kissed Williams and looked over a crowd that included Lamar Odom, Miles Austin, Terrell Owens and the Kardashians. It was a reality television show haven for the player who may one day have his own show.
"I didn't really do this for the attention," Bosh said of his signing with the Heat. "I did this because I wanted to play championship-caliber basketball with the best guys out there, and just to have this opportunity and this kind of hype machine behind us. It's spectacular. Those are the things you dream about when you're a little kid. Playing basketball, you want to be Jordan, Pippen and those guys. You want to be the show, and now we're the show. We have the chance to live that dream now, and I'm just living it up."
Bosh has even embraced his role as a possible villain this season as the Heat have been compared to the n.W.o. with James, Wade and Bosh playing the role of Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
"I used to watch wrestling every day," he said. "That's cool. I actually like the n.W.o. comparisons. I used to want to be them guys. I think it's great."
As the night comes to a close and rapper Too Short makes a surprise appearance and performs "Blow The Whistle" in the middle of the club, Bosh still can't believe where he is now and how this offseason has played out. He wanted more recognition, he wanted to play for a championship and he wanted to get paid but he never could have imagined doing all of the above and becoming an integral part of the biggest sports story of the year and ultimately being the one who will tell it when he plans to release his documentary.
"I'm very surprised at how big this got," he said. "I knew this was a historical moment, but I never thought this would be this big. We've been enjoying this the whole time and it's been great, but I still can't believe it."
Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ArashMarkazi.
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