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Bosh's Toronto-filmed DVD shows him feeling at home in Canada

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The Canadian Press
12/8/2009 1:49:54 PM
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TORONTO -- The opening scene of Chris Bosh's new documentary, "First Ink," shows the hoopster cruising around Toronto, city lights shining off the gleaming hood of his car while a soundtrack blares the same sample over and over: "Rep T-Dot till they bury me."

Sounds like the feel-good movie of the year for Raptors fans nervous about the four-time all-star's impending free agency. And Bosh, for his part, says he has grown to appreciate playing north of the border.

"I just came here (in the summer) and I was like: 'Dang, I'm comfortable here,"' Bosh told The Canadian Press in a recent interview at a posh Toronto hotel.

"Usually, when I was younger, I'd come here and I couldn't wait to go back home (to Texas). I'd go home and sit there and do nothing. Now? It's like, we're going to T.O.! When you going back to Dallas? Pfft, I don't know -- whenever. I just feel comfortable here."

He also feels increasingly comfortable in front of the camera, as evidenced by the package of skits that come bundled with his DVD.

In five sketches, Bosh pokes fun at his own ego, produces an off-colour faux infomercial and debuts some new characters, including Anthony Appletree, a gum-chewing, camo-clad redneck who descends from a long line of "professional hide-and-seekers."

In a skit he wrote, Bosh portrays a comically demanding children's basketball coach and, in one of the disc's highlights, he travels around Toronto, confronting his Internet haters (played by actors). He smacks a footlong sub sandwich out of one fan's hand, steals a critic's bicycle and takes to a street basketball court to dunk emphatically over a child who made disparaging comments about him on the web.

Bosh said that sketch was inspired by the very-real vitriol he absorbs online.

"I have YouTube channels, I have Twitter, I have a Facebook fan page, and every so often you look on it and somebody put something stupid up there or something very negative," said Bosh, slouched in an armchair and munching on chicken fingers and fries.

"It's like, why would you do that? You don't even have your face up there. What's your purpose in doing that? It's dumb. But, people, I guess, find they get a kick out of it."

Of course, Bosh made a conscious decision to open himself up more to fans -- for better or worse -- two years ago, when he first went to YouTube in the hopes of taking his image into his own hands.

Bosh has averaged 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds over his six-plus year career, cementing himself among the most consistent young bigs in the NBA. He also played a pivotal role as the primary big man on the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in Beijing last summer.

Yet the soft-spoken 25-year-old hasn't had the same success with off-the-court endorsements and endeavours as his 2003 draft peers LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

So, he decided to market himself. In '07, Bosh posted a goofy clip online where, dressed in a cowboy hat and bolo tie, he portrayed a Southern used-car salesman and solicited fan votes for the all-star game.

More videos followed and soon Bosh had a gig reporting on the NBA finals for the Tonight Show. He figures that the clips, modest though they may have been, helped raise his profile.

"To be quite honest, not a lot of things were going for me," he said. "I don't have as much popularity as other guys, so I guess some avenues that came to them or that they deserved didn't come to me like that. So I was forced to be more creative.

"Either sit there and be dormant or do something fun, take something and elevate it and make it better, keep it moving. It's worked out so far."

With his mellow Southern drawl and quietly focused demeanour, Bosh has always seemed to have more in common with low-key NBA stars such as Tim Duncan than outsized personalities like Shaquille O'Neal.

Duncan has won four championships but hasn't sold any vitamin-enriched water and Bosh isn't sure why.

"That's a good question man, I mean, I have no idea," he said. "At the end of the day, people have to sell product, and in order to (do that), you have to relate to the individual that endorses the product.

"I'm sure Tim doesn't mind," he adds with a laugh. "He's such a laid-back dude, anyway."

The main feature of "First Ink" revolves around Bosh deciding to get his first tattoo. He brings an elaborate sketch -- he says it's a "mural of (his) life" and involves a tiger and a tree -- to tattoo parlours around Toronto, before getting some preliminary work done, with an outline scrawled across his newly filled-out shoulders and back.

The tattoo, Bosh says, falls in line with his summer mandate to get stronger and tougher. His intense workout plan, hinted at during the DVD, resulted in 15 extra pounds of muscle for the formerly wiry Bosh and an increased focus on playing inside.

Entering Tuesday's game against Minnesota, Bosh was averaging career-highs in points (24.4), rebounds (12.1) and free-throw attempts (10.1) but the Raptors haven't been as successful.

They recently ended a five-game losing skid that included an ugly 31-point loss in Atlanta, where players including Bosh seemed to question the mental makeup of the team.

But he says now that more personnel changes -- the Raptors entered the season with nine new players -- would not be the answer.

"The changes come from within," he said. "Sometimes the culture of sports, people think: 'Well, they gotta get a new player, they gotta get a new coach.' Nah. Sometimes it can just be communication."

And, he notes, it's on him to improve the situation here. He dismisses the idea that he needs another body to help him fight for rebounds inside.

"I think we've gotten help, but sometimes it's like, well, why don't I help myself? Sometimes you just have to look at yourself, it's not going to come from somewhere else, so maybe it has to come from you.

"This year, I thought maybe I needed to get stronger. I can't just look to this guy for help, like, 'Help me please, somebody, the gods, please, send me a big guy with muscles and that's mean and brawny to help me!' . . . Maybe I just need to put in the work to be that guy or to help myself a little more."

Bosh has long said that he'll decide where to play next season based on where he can be happy, which largely comes down to team success. With 2010 and a decision on his future looming, is he comfortable going forward with the Raptors' current core of players?

"I think I am, only if they're comfortable with themselves," he said. "They have to believe in themselves, first and foremost, before I can believe in them. I have to believe in myself before they believe in me. I can't do work for anybody else and vice versa.

"They have to be self-driven and self-motivated and they have to feel they can contribute to a championship team and I have to feel the same thing."

Chris Bosh (Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images)
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