Chris Bosh hasn’t played professional basketball in five years, but he still feels the same excitement he felt at game time. The affable 37-year-old has been busy. His first book, Letters to a Young Athlete, debuted on June 1. He’s a father of five and deep into charitable work. He joined The Jump, ESPN’s popular NBA show, and he will be inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
Chris Bosh has entered the next stage of his life, and it’s exciting. We recently caught up with the 11-time NBA All-Star, and he gave us the scoop on his new book and how he’s adjusting to life off the court.
Men’s Journal: In your book, you write that an athlete has to have a “why” beyond wins and losses. Now that you’re retired, what’s your why?
Chris Bosh: My “why” now is passing on knowledge and helping those who are looking for that spark. Making the NBA was my dream and my goal, and there were so many people that helped me along the way. Sometimes you can find help in the unlikeliest of places.
Books were definitely one of so many jewels of information that helped me. I always like to say this book is my memento to the game of basketball, because I’ve sat down and reflected on every aspect and every person that helped me—whether it was a pat on the back, a conversation on the bus ride, a hot meal on the weekend, or just taking me home after practice so I could stay late and get up shots. Hopefully, people can get something from it.
So that’s why I do it now: to help others and to show gratitude by remembering all of those good times and sharing the tools that helped me get over obstacles.
In the book, you discuss how much of an athlete’s success depends on mental prowess. Is that the most overlooked aspect of pro sports?
I think it’s naturally overlooked. The typical fan is not in the meetings. They’re not in the practice sessions. They don’t see the countless hours that go into preparation for a playoff series. With the Heat, we would have a notebook as thick as a book on just one team. And at our practices we would sit down in the theater, watch film, and break these teams down, player by player, play by play.
Fans just see athletes performing on the court. They don’t see the preparation and the intelligence that goes into performing.
It’s tough. It takes a lot of time. We have to make sure that we’re smart with our training, remembering other people’s plays, remembering place options and reads—and being able to make those decisions in a split second.
Was it easy to take the lessons described in the book into retirement?
No. As I’m thinking about all of these things that helped me overcome challenges, I still had to use them as we were writing. I’m telling people they have to fight through bad days, and I just had a bad day. I’m telling people, “Hey, you got to find what you love.” And after basketball, I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do because all I loved was basketball.
It was really interesting to hear my inner voice and use those tools in real time. As I’m writing to the young athletes, to the CEOs and business people, to the chefs, to the bus drivers, I’m talking to myself as well. These are lessons that I have used and continue to use. Life doesn’t stop.
Was there one lesson in the book that you wish you had mastered before you retired?
All of them. I was one of those crazy players in that I was always trying to get better. It was never good enough, unless we won a championship. Right before I retired, I was in a part of my career where I had evolved. I was a different player than I was in the Big Three era. I felt that I was on the transformative side to my career, and I never really got to dive into it.
That said, writing the book made me appreciate those lessons that I didn’t know and those lessons that I can still get better at. That’s the best part about this book. The books that helped me the most didn’t have anything to do with basketball. So I’m hoping that people will read this book and be like, “Man this really helped me in this.”
As an athlete, what book helped you the most?
I can’t pinpoint one book. I’ve had books that really helped me out in in certain times. One of those is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I read it back in the late 2000s, as soon as it came out, and it inspired me to put the work in and think outside the box about how to attain greatness.
Once I became more advanced, one of the books that I read was The Way and the Power. It’s a very dense book on the art of the samurai—their principles on the student all the way up to the master. It broke down how the samurai thought about their way of life.
I definitely have to say Becoming Kareem, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It’s great perspective from a great athlete who grew up in the civil rights era and had to deal with much more than just playing basketball. It gave me a lens on what’s important to him and how he became one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players of all time.
Then there’s another one called Grit by Angela Duckworth. I love books that are shared. And [Miami Heat head coach] Erik Spoelstra, he shared that book with me and the team. It explored how you overcome challenges; it was just so interesting.
What’s basketball’s role in your life now?
I appreciate the game. It’s so good to be a fan. I used to look at the game critically and point out flaws immediately and do all this crazy stuff. But now I’m just able to enjoy the game and watch the newer, younger guys come in and have their time. It’s wonderful to see people reaching for goals and trying to do something. I think basketball is in great hands. I had my time. Now the young men and women have theirs.
You’re a dad. What’s the role of a parent in shaping a young athlete?
There are so many different ways you can go about it. My dad, he took me to all the games and took me to practice. My mom and dad, they’d sit there while I’m working after the game and getting shots up. I think the role of a parent is just to guide the athlete and be available. Sometimes that means you’re going to be an Uber driver. Or you might have to give your time to help raise money for uniforms. There are so many ways that you can be supportive as a parent.
One of the things that I try to do with my children is just to make sure that I’m in their corner. If they want to do something, I’m going to support them. If they want to play basketball, then hey, you know what, I’ll drive you and your friends to the game.
Just being in the stands and watching, talking to the coaches and getting involved, those things are priceless. That’s what I loved about basketball: I would see a community come together to support the young men and women who are out there on the court.
Now that fitness isn’t a part of your job, is it nice to not have that pressure to work out?
I feel it more than ever. Being an ex-athlete is interesting. You’ll be a demigod walking among mere mortals and then, boy, that belly. Nothing wrong with a belly.
After you’re done, there’s no one telling you, “Hey, you’ve got to do this.” There’s no mandatory workouts. Honestly, it’s more of a challenge. For me, lifting weights and doing all these things, it was work. I want to make sure that I make it a part of my lifestyle, but it’s difficult to work up the habit to say, “This is what I’m going to do. And this is how I’m going to live my life. And this is going to be my lifestyle.” It’s not always fun lifting weights. Sometimes I start having flashbacks to coaches punishing the team with a tough workout.
But I’ve invested decades into my body, and I just want to continue to keep it. I do believe in getting that heart rate up and exercising. If you do that, I think you’ll be a better businessman, or a better journalist, because we all get tired. And even when you get tired, you’re gonna have to meet that deadline. Are you barely making it? Or do you have more energy to finish and then still get the family time? There are major benefits to fitness.
Is there an exercise you can recommend to add a little spice to a workout routine?
You can do so many things with dumbbells. Just start there. I think sometimes we can get caught up in “I’ve got to work this area,” or “I have to have good posture.” Just lift some weights. Get some dumbbells and get going.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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