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Dallas Legend Chris Bosh On What It Takes To Make The NBA

Chris Bosh speaks into a microphone while wearing a suit at a press conference announcing the retirement of his jersey number by the Miami Heat.
Joe Skipper
Associated Press
Chris Bosh played 13 seasons in the NBA and had his number retired by the Miami Heat, with whom he won two championships.

Dallas native Chris Bosh’s basketball career was cut short when doctors discovered a series of blot clots that could be life-threatening if he continued to play. KERA's Stephen Becker spoke with Bosh about how he's turned his attention to preparing future generations for NBA stardom.

Bosh is an 11-time NBA All Star, two-time NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist. He'll soon be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most importantly, he's the pride of Dallas' Lincoln High School.

As part of On Our Minds, KERA’s Mental Health project, he talks about the mental side of achieving athletic greatness.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Stephen Becker: Your book is "Letters to a Young Athlete," which is written to a middle school or high school athlete who's at that point where if they really want to think big, it's time to get serious. When did you figure out that the mental side of sports is something that also takes work?

Chris Bosh: I found that out pretty early. I'd always noticed how people would compliment me for being smarter or even trying in the classroom. Then as I got older, in basketball, the plays became more complex. The situations became more complex, you have to learn all the offenses, you have to learn multiple plays, you have to remember them. You have to remember defensive coverages. I just saw right away how much people talk differently about somebody who can comprehend that information.

SB: You write "mental toughness isn't something you just have or not, it's something you build up like any other muscle." How did you go about building your mental toughness?

CB: I think it's all in not giving up. You have to find out a way to come back after you've been disappointed, because we've all taken losses, or what we perceive as failures. But to me, truly failing is not trying. So mental toughness is finding those ways to get up in the morning and do your job. You know it needs to get done. Don't beat around the bush. Let's put our work in day after day after day. This is the process.

SB: I don't mean to open up old wounds. But this month is the 10 year anniversary of the Mavericks beating your Miami Heat team in the NBA Finals. The reason I mentioned that is that you write as much about that loss as you do about your many victories. What did you learn from times when you lost?

CB: Well, I definitely learned what I didn't do right. There's no escaping that. That's why I love sports. Because the minute that you lose, you know that that was a better team. They played a better series, and you have to be OK with that. But then most importantly, you remember those shortcuts, you remember that loose ball you didn't get. You remember that one more rep in the gym you didn't get. Those are the things that come back to haunt you.

SB: You also write about the 2006 World Championships when Team USA lost. But that prepared you for ultimately winning the gold medal in 2008.

CB: Yeah, no, it did. That's the best part about that story is that disappointment can lead to greatness. Just don't stop, just never give up. In that particular situation, I write a lot about ego as well because, and also not to say that I was the reason that we lost, but I definitely did not aid it. Because I was thinking about my shots. I was thinking about my playing time. Then this team would do so much better because of me, as opposed to in 2008. I took more of a team approach. I did what the coach asked me to do. I followed his compliments and his challenges. I just filled that position that the team needed.

SB: The part that resonated the most with me is this part about finding your "why" — your reason for putting in all of this effort. Describe that process for me.

CB: So in my case, you know, I just love basketball. I love making friends. It gave me friends. It was something to do on Friday nights, the games were huge. I love the smell of sweat and popcorn and sneakers. Just the game bringing people together. It was just an amazing feeling. It gave me the best days of my life. This is before I even got to the league.

So before it wasn't even about money. As I say, it can't be fame or money. Because I've had those things. They're fleeting, they're cool, don't get me wrong. But if you're hanging your hat on that, it's fleeting and it will not give you the justification that you are looking for if those are the priorities.

Got a tip? Email Stephen Becker at You can follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenbecker.

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Stephen Becker is executive producer of the "Think with Krys Boyd," which airs on more than 200 stations across the country. Prior to joining the Think team in 2013, as part of the Art&Seek team, Stephen produced radio and digital stories and hosted "The Big Screen" — a weekly radio segment about North Texas film — with Chris Vognar.