Toronto Raptors fans know what love is. Most first felt its gentle stirrings when they acquired a young Vince Carter in 1998, only three years after the franchise’s conception. No one knew it at the time, but Carter would go on to light up the league in his first season, nabbing the Rookie of the Year trophy and enamoring a whole generation of kids across Canada.
That love would continue to intensify into the 1999-2000 season. If Vince Carter was a thrilling fling, full of big gestures (read: dunks) and spontaneity, Tracy McGrady was his steady partner—the Betty to his Veronica while Raptors fans got to play Archie.
For arguably the first time ever, basketball in Canada was exciting. Carter won the dunk contest in 2000, cementing his legacy not only in Toronto, but in the entire National Basketball Association. He was young, compelling, and he was carrying Canadian basketball into the spotlight. He escorted the Raptors to their first ever playoff appearance that year, and despite a first round knockout, there was no mistaking the sentiment burning in the hearts of Toronto fans; this was real love.
Like all first dates, Carter seemed almost too good to be true. He was putting up 25.7 points a game in his second year in the league and was getting featured on highlight shows every night. Then, Tracy McGrady left. That in itself was a small thing—McGrady was not yet the superstar he would become, but it put all the weight of the Raptors franchise on the shoulders of its young star.
To say the pressure wore Vince down would be a literal interpretation. Carter struggled with knee injuries throughout his time with the Raptors before advocating for his own trade in 2004. The trade left the fan base heartbroken; Vin-sanity had found a home in Toronto and to be betrayed by a franchise player stung.
Toronto fans’ next love would be different. Gun-shy from the Carter’s departure, they were hesitant to trust another flashy, young star. Cue the entrance of Chris Bosh. He gained the affections of Raptors fans slowly, through his steady play and work ethic. Sure, he put up points, but after being forced to play centre he garnered respect for being fearless in the paint against much stronger opponents.
Bosh was good. He was present. He cared. After Carter’s slow disenfranchisement, Bosh’s commitment meant everything to the fans. Couple that with his offensive prowess and you had one of the league’s best young big men racking up double-doubles, and slowly stalking records set by Carter. He just needed some help.
That help was supposed to come with the drafting of guys like Andrea Bargnani, but we all know how that worked out. Yet another promise made by the Raptors front office that failed to materialize. Eventually, those broken promises began to stack up.
Despite surpassing Carter’s all time point record in 2010, Bosh was getting antsy. The floundering Raptors didn’t show any signs of being genuine contenders and his contract was almost up.
The Raptors front office failed so monumentally to give Chris Bosh any help, that the breakup began to loom on the horizon. It seemed inevitable. Bosh’s cryptic tweets further concerned fans. After eight years, the love had dimmed. Bosh was nearing his thirties, with nothing to show for it but all star appearances and shallow playoff runs. He needed more. He needed to find a spark again.
It’s hard to fault Bosh for what happened next, but it didn’t make it any less heart wrenching. Eight years is a long time to spend with a franchise unless you’re Dirk Nowitzki. Watching a player that was such a big part of the franchise’s growth walk away in free agency angered fans, even if it was more than justified. His choice to join the Miami Heat hurt for a variety of reasons. To leave and go running to the hottest, most skilled, team he could find was insulting. To add salt to the wound, Bosh documented his talks with teams, further frustrating fans.
Chris enjoyed the luxury of being one of several strong players on the Heat, joining the duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. He would go on to win multiple titles with the Heat, which is the basketball equivalent to watching your ex get married to the first person they meet after you.
Bosh stuck by Miami when LeBron returned home and quietly stood by them after a trade talk debacle with Wade resulted in a similar homecoming. Despite his skill, Bosh has never truly owned the Superstar mantle and has always felt comfortable being a steady presence on the teams he has played on. As a fan, it is hard to ask for more.
When Bosh was sidelined at the end of the 2014-15 season due to recurring health problems it was almost ironic. For years, the skinny kid from Dallas had went up against bigger, stronger players. He had battled through injuries and sheer physical disadvantage, proving his tenacity against guys like Dwight Howard consistently through his career. To end it quietly, due to a non-related issue like blood clots was hard for Bosh. Miami refused to let him finish the season, citing liability.
So here we find Chris Bosh; he’s still in basketball limbo, waiting to be waived by the Heat. Basketball is no longer an option. He’s 32, supposed to being playing the final years of an illustrious career, and enjoying those perks but instead he is sidelined indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the Raptors have built a team that has collectively brought pride back to Toronto in the wake of his departure. The new Raptors are chippy, hard workers who are known for their backcourt depth.
Even as the Raptors flourish, one has to wonder: what would it have been like if Bosh stayed?