READY TO EX­HALE Chris Bosh can breathe in with joy as the Heat re­tire the 11-time NBA All-Star’s No. 1 jer­sey on Tues­day

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man

The mo­ment that led to Tues­day’s up­com­ing re­tire­ment of Chris Bosh’s No. 1 Mi­ami Heat jer­sey came in the form of an epiphany.

“You can’t live two lives,” Bosh says with the clar­ity that had been lack­ing af­ter he was ini­tially di­ag­nosed with a sec­ond round of blood clots in Fe­bru­ary 2016, the mo­ment his All-Star NBA ca­reer was put on hold for a sec­ond and fi­nal time.

“I’m go­ing to par­ent-teacher con­fer­ences with my kids, and there’s these dif­fer­ent things to get done through­out the day — and I’m try­ing to get a work­out in. The longer I went with­out play­ing games, or hav­ing a con­tract or any­thing, the more dif­fi­cult it got, the more fire I lost.”

All the while, he be­lieved it could not pos­si­bly be the end, ul­ti­mately never re­turn­ing to the game that had so de­fined his life.

No, this mo­ment of jer­sey-re­tir­ing fi­nal­ity is not what the sweet-shoot­ing 6-foot-11 power for­ward had planned for the night two nights af­ter he turns 35 on Sun­day.

At least not yet.

And yet this is where he is, mov­ing for­ward in dif­fer­ent ways he never thought pos­si­ble, thank­ful for health, fam­ily, ap­pre­cia­tive for the op­por­tu­nity to now fur­ther re­con­nect with those who ul­ti­mately helped shape per­son more than player.

For years, Bosh thought this would solely be a bas­ket­ball story, a mo­ment made in­evitable by four con­sec­u­tive Heat trips to the NBA Fi­nals from 2011 to 2014, with cham­pi­onships in 2012 and ’13.

But the first bout of blood clots at the 2015 All-Star break put bas­ket­ball on hold. The sec­ond bout, ini­tially in the eyes of the Heat and even­tu­ally to the re­al­iza­tion of Bosh, ended his time in the game.

These in­ter­ven­ing years, feel­ing fit to con­tinue but un­der­stand­ing the po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic med­i­cal con­se­quence, were the tough­est, ones. They led to an in­tro­spec­tion he never an­tic­i­pated.

“The first time was a huge scare,” he says. “But the sec­ond time, ‘You can’t play any­more.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what do you mean I can’t play?’

“Cir­cum­stances of life hap­pened, and you’ve just got to try your best to nav­i­gate through them.”

It is that nav­i­ga­tion that Bosh only now feels com­fort­able dis­cussing, the di­vorce from the Heat that seemed so con­tentious from the out­side. Heat pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley and owner Micky Ari­son re­fused to ac­qui­esce to a riskac­cepted re­turn.

“It was tough, man. It was stress­ful,” Bosh says. “And no­body wanted it to be like that. And it’s busi­ness. I un­der­stood the whole time of where they were com­ing from and how they felt, but I want to make sure that peo­ple un­der­stood how I felt, as well.

“Some­times that re­quires con­fronta­tion or in­volves con­fronta­tion. It was never con­fronta­tional. It was never any­thing detri­men­tal to our re­la­tion­ship. We al­ways kept it busi­ness. We all pretty much dis­agreed.”

Bosh pauses, be­cause there only could be a mo­ment such as Tues­day be­cause of what all the while was tran­spir­ing be­hind the scenes, al­low­ing Bosh’s No. 1 to as­cend af­ter the No. 33 of Alonzo

Mourn­ing, the No. 10 of Tim Har­d­away and the No. 32 of Shaquille O’Neal.

“Micky and Pat — and this is one thing I have to get straight with peo­ple all the time — we never not talked. We com­mu­ni­cated through this whole or­deal,” Bosh says. “And my mes­sage was al­ways the same, ‘I want to play the game. I want to ex­plore more op­tions to be able to play.’ “

So he ex­plored, as an agree­ment was reached to re­move his con­tract from the Heat salary cap, all the while ev­ery last dol­lar paid, in­clud­ing the $26.8 mil­lion due this sea­son.

And then the re­al­iza­tion that there could be no al­ter­na­tive.

“To be quite frank, if you get a blood-clot sit­u­a­tion, if I get a blood-clot sit­u­a­tion, if a Chi­nese guy gets a blood-clot sit­u­a­tion, there is one treat­ment,” he says. “There was no medicine that even made sense. So it’s just like, ‘I’m sup­posed to take this and that’s it and ride off into the sun­set?’ “

So he put aside med­i­cal ad­vice — and med­i­cal re­al­ity — and briefly put aside South Florida, mov­ing his fam­ily to Austin, Texas.

“I had to get away be­cause I was in a po­si­tion where I couldn’t play the game I loved,” he says. “And Mi­ami’s a small town, so you’re go­ing to run into the same peo­ple. I couldn’t look at the arena. I couldn’t drive by it. I just couldn’t do it. Ev­ery­thing was just kind of clos­ing in on me, per­sonal things, as well.

“I had to get out and re­ally just re­set and not drive myself crazy. Austin, Texas, is home. And we’ll spend a tremen­dous amount of time in Mi­ami, as well.

“We came back for the hol­i­days to start re­con­nect­ing with every­one. I made the de­ci­sion then, ‘Let’s spend more time here.’ There still is that home feel here. I got mar­ried, I had four of my chil­dren here. I did all these dif­fer­ent things. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced life and death all in Mi­ami. That has a spe­cial place in my heart.”

Per­haps the best way for Bosh to com­part­men­tal­ize is to com­pare, in his case to the risks foot­ball play­ers take with brain in­jury, the long-term im­pacts of CTE. The dif­fer­ence be­ing NFL play­ers don’t know all they need to know un­til it pos­si­bly is too late.

“You’re play­ing foot­ball and some­body comes and tells you, ‘Well, when you’re 50, you’re go­ing to have de­men­tia or have CTE or some­thing,’ “he says. “For me, it was im­me­di­ate. It was re­ally, re­ally tough to swal­low.”

Only through friends and fam­ily is there now this ex­hale, ready to breathe in ev­ery­thing that Tues­day’s mo­ment at cen­ter court at Amer­i­canAir­lines Arena will de­liver.

“I’m hav­ing con­ver­sions with close friends and fam­ily, and I re­mem­ber dis­tinctly I was speak­ing with one of my cousins and I said, ‘Man, it didn’t end the way it’s sup­posed to end,’ ” Bosh says. “He said, ‘It never ends the way it’s sup­posed to.’

“That kind of put things into per­spec­tive for me. It made me step back and look at my life and what I can do to kind of move for­ward.”

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

WILFREDO LEE/AP FILE

Heat cen­ter Chris Bosh blocks a shot by Spurs guard Danny Green dur­ing over­time in Game 6 of the NBA Fi­nals in 2013.

MICHAEL LAUGH­LIN/SUN SEN­TINEL

Chris Bosh on his bout with blood clots: “Cir­cum­stances of life hap­pened and you’ve just got to try your best to nav­i­gate through them.”

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