Bosh hopes Toronto reception isn't as bad as LeBron's in Ohio Staff with files from James Cybulski

1/23/2011 9:19:00 PM

Back on December 2, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James made his much-anticipated return to Cleveland, the city he had left in the off-season to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.

Despite all the verbal venom thrown his way during that game in Ohio, James rallied his teammates to demolish the Cavaliers and set Miami's season on course. After a rocky 9-8 start to the campaign, the Heat rattled off wins in 21 of their next 22 games, morphing into the high-achieving squad many expected them to become.

Now, as Chris Bosh gets ready for his February 16 return to Toronto following his own rather unpleasant departure from the Raptors after seven years with the team, he hopes the anger that fans in Hogtown have for him won't be quite as harsh as it was in Cleveland for LeBron back in December.

"I hope not. I don't think it could get any worse than that," Bosh says. "It was something else. You had to see it."

James, for one, doesn't think the reception in Toronto will even come close to rivalling the one he faced in Cleveland.

"It will be nowhere near as bad as it was for me going back home," James says. "He's not going back home, he's going to a team he played for. There's no comparison. He'll be fine."

Bosh says heckling and booing are to be expected, and that he hopes he can use some of that negative energy as fuel - a skill he picked up from his new teammates in Miami.

"When I looked at Dwyane and LeBron, as soon as the game (in Cleveland) started playing, I could kind of read their body language from the get-go and I was like, 'Wow, they really like this, they like this environment, they like just the tension and the excitement and everything,'", says Bosh. "So I was like, 'Man, I gotta step up.'"

The game in Cleveland also seemed to teach Miami's 'Big Three' how to embrace the roles of supervillains, a label put on them by fans of the 29 teams not based in Miami.

"We've dealt with a lot of those extreme road circumstances, and these guys absolutely have embraced those opportunities to play in those environments," says head coach Erik Spoelstra.

"We enjoy going on the road and playing against all odds. Not a lot of people want us to win in it," says Wade. "We also enjoy turning the crowd to our favour because we're not bad guys, we're not 'in-your-face' kind of guys. We play the game of basketball, I think we play it exciting, I think we play it the right way."

Bosh, 26, affectionately known as "CB4" in Toronto, leads the franchise in most statistical areas.

Former Raptor Vince Carter, once known as "Air Canada", has regularly received a chorus of boos upon each return to the Air Canada Centre since his own acrimonious exit, and in less than one month, basketball fans will get to see if Bosh's return is greeted by the same level of discontent, or perhaps even more.

- with files from TSN's James Cybulski