Chris Bosh, a two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, has made a life and career out of betting on himself, and pushing himself to the highest of heights. Unexpected health concerns derailed his still ascending NBA career. Faced with a new reality, Bosh tapped into his other loves, one of which is writing. He brings us Letters to a Young Athlete, a book created to give young athletes some game about the world of sports and life.
EBONY had the distinct honor of speaking with the amazing athlete and 2021 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee on the life lessons he gained from writing the book.
EBONY: First and foremost Chris, congratulations! You have been named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2021. As you wound down from learning of this exciting news, what word would best express how you felt?
Chris Bosh: “Wow,” that would be the one. You never know what will go through your mind when these things happen. It’s surreal, really. You start out as a kid with a dream; and, basketball was just one of those things that I could make friends with—or just something to do—it was always something that I wanted to be a part of. Making the NBA was great as a stand alone, but the Hall of Fame? Wow! To have these accomplishments in the span that I had them in and to have the memories that I do, it’s really awe inspiring. I’m filled with gratitude above all else.
You weren’t able to retire on your own terms unfortunately; this development, in essence, is what provided the impetus to write your book Letters to a Young Athlete. At what point after retirement did you begin to think “You know what? I should write a book.”
I didn’t know what I was going to do. People tend to think that you have it all figured out. A wise person once told me that there’s greatness in hobbies. I always saw value in that. I found myself doing art and music and learning more languages in my free time because basketball wasn’t as much of a factor anymore. I leaned into my interests more but applied the same discipline that I learned throughout my professional career on the court.
What does it mean to you to have a foreword written by the legendary Pat Riley specifically for a project such as this?
Man, Pat’s the greatest! He has been a great mentor in life outside of basketball. He’s one of the people who encouraged me to write. He helped me with embracing the mentality of looking past solely being a professional athlete.
He wrote such a nuanced foreword and he used his own experiences. Pat Riley is an artist and a writer; he really wrote it all himself and, if you ask me, outdid himself.
A theme in this book is embracing the necessity to pivot. We’ve all had to learn that on the fly in the era of the pandemic. What is a way that you believe you can get young athletes to see the bigger picture and embrace it from a younger age?
One of the things I want athletes to understand is their “why.” Why are you doing something? I ask that question in this book. I loved the game of basketball, the camaraderie, the smell of the gym, the competition. My “why” is what helped me stay committed. I want people to thoughtfully dive into themselves and the reasons why they get involved in anything. When you consider your “why,” you become so much more deliberate with the decisions that you make. You become intentional, and that is what can help a young athlete think differently from a much earlier age.
In chapter eight, titled “Take Care of Yourself,” you recall your dad saying that “eating quarter pounders is like putting regular gas in a Ferrari.” What has been your father’s biggest influence in your development?
The rides—the rides to and from practice. You know, being a Black man in America, with children, that was the most important thing. The time that was spent with me. It wasn’t only him, but other Black men, such as my coaches. The hours spent traveling to and from tournaments were filled with counsel and lessons. The humble experiences of splitting food or having to be disciplined were all so necessary. Learning responsibility and having the support was really clutch. My dad was at every game. His presence had such an impact. Being involved is huge.
I can only imagine how much perspective you can gain when you immerse yourself in the process of writing a book. What did writing this book reveal to you?
It was a really cathartic process actually. I got in the mode of really appreciating all of these past life experiences. To piggyback on what I mentioned about my dad earlier, it really took a village. I had so much help at every stage—words of encouragement, talks after bad games with friends and family. You begin to appreciate what may have seemed at that time as little things and realized that they were actually really huge deals. It was great to look back fondly and be amazed at the team effort and this result.
What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing “Letters to a Young Athlete?”
We have a running joke in the family, we say, “I have a book about getting through challenges but you get through challenges while writing this book.” We had to stay with this vision, and show up daily to make this whole thing happen. I was finding my way through this whole process as a writer. This is a long arduous sort of process and really so rewarding once I could see the finished product.
Do you think pivoting has become second nature for you now?
I wish, man! I really wish it was. The idea of it is easy, but one of my challenges that I had in my career was adapting from season to season. Reinvention is always a buzzword that we used, to come back smarter and faster. We as humans don't usually like being beginners at anything. Starting from scratch requires so much patience and humility—but that’s all a part of pivoting.
How would you apply a piece of advice that you give in this book to your younger self?
Oh man, there’s so many things! I would probably say that you should not get too high or too low. There's nothing that I can change about what’s coming—what’s coming is coming. But if I can gain the tools to handle what may come, I’d be set.
With a new book out and a well deserved Hall of Fame induction on the horizon, how would you define this period of your life Chris?
Man, I’d say the beginning of act two! Basketball was a wonderful and tremendous act one. I’m so glad I can look back at basketball fondly. I take a lot of pride knowing that I gave everything I could to the game with the right spirit. And now, I have a whole new world of possibilities to sink my teeth into whether it be writing or creating music. I can once again reinvent myself and better the world in a totally different way.
Lastly, I have to ask, which teams do you see playing each other in this year’s NBA Finals?
It really beats me honestly, there’s so many factors in the game in general. And in this year’s playoffs, I really can’t call it. There’s so many ways that things can go. You have the Lakers who you have to respect as defending world champions. You have the Nets. Philly. Phoenix is much improved. What I can say is that I hope for great health for everyone competing and I’ll avoid the angst and let the players decide.
Letters to a Young Athlete (Penguin Press) is out now.
Kahlil Haywood is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren't, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops.