MIAMI (AP) — Chris Bosh stood at center court, looked out at the Miami Heat fans and just let the words flow. He spoke about his health scare in 2015. He spoke of his grandfather, the one he called Daddy Jack, the one who told his first grandson that he was going to be special one day.
And was Daddy Jack ever right.
In Heat history, his grandson is now officially immortal.
Wearing a Heat championship ring on both hands, Bosh watched a giant banner bearing his name and No. 1 raised to the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night — then delivered an emotional address to the crowd, part of it even in Spanish as a show of respect to the Latin culture of Miami.
“My name, my family name up here, that’s something I used to get laughed at for dreaming of,” Bosh said. “So never let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dream. Those four letters on the back of that jersey are my wife’s name, my kids’ name, my father’s name, my grandfather’s name. We’re not just carrying on for another generation. But now, Daddy Jack, we’re up there forever.”
The ceremony came a little more than three years after Bosh played his final game of a 13-year career, 11 of those good enough for All-Star nods, four of them culminating in trips to the NBA Finals, two of them capped by championships. He is the fourth player to have his number retired by the Heat, joining Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal.
“Forever, and for always, a lifer of the Miami Heat,” Heat President Pat Riley said, moments before Bosh’s banner was unfurled and hoisted.
Riley called Bosh’s rebound and assist late in regulation of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals — the ones that set up Ray Allen’s game-tying, series-saving 3-pointer — the biggest in Heat history. Bosh went a step further.
“The biggest rebound in NBA history,” Bosh said.
There will be, at minimum, three more Heat jersey retirements in the not-so-distant future — Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Udonis Haslem are all locks to see their name and number swaying over the court not long after their careers end.
Wade and Haslem were on the court for the celebration. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decided long ago that, even with Tuesday’s Miami-Orlando matchup being such a big game in terms of playoff hopes, his players were going to be out on the floor to see the Bosh ceremony.
Wade introduced Bosh, telling stories of how he learned Spanish off Rosetta Stone CDs and how he became an outstanding self-taught guitar player who wound up jamming with the legendary Buddy Guy. He also talked about how much he admires the way Bosh embraces being a father and husband.
“The person who made the `Big 3′ era legendary,” Wade said.
Spoelstra tells stories of his time with Bosh all the time. One of his favorites — the night Bosh, after a playoff loss in Indiana put the Heat down 2-1 in a series, knocked on the door of his hotel suite at 2 a.m. with beers in hand. They sipped and talked for 45 minutes, not a word said about basketball. The Heat won Game 4, and the series.
“If you want to understand our culture and what we’re about, there’s nothing better than a night like tonight,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat also presented Bosh with a $50,000 gift for his foundation and a one-of-a-kind guitar designed by his friend Rey Jeffet Jr. And in his remarks, Bosh detailed how much his first health scare in 2015 – caused by a blood clot, just like how his career ultimately ended in 2016 – was ultimately aided by Heat fans.
The team sent thousands of get-well cards from fans to Bosh’s home. He read them all.
“Those letters pushed me to get back on this court,” Bosh said. “Those letters inspired me to get back up and walk across the room when I didn’t think I had the energy to do it.”
For a time, he and the Heat were estranged. Bosh wanted to keep playing. The Heat didn’t feel his health issues would allow that. Eventually, the sides reached an understanding and then they finally began talking again.
Now he’s back in the Heat family, forever.
“I feel like I can officially, officially, officially move on,” Bosh said. “It all happened really fast, but we’re here. I’m so happy. And we get to move on into the next life together.”