Chris Bosh and Bryan Colangelo

The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans.

Chris Bosh’s Raptors résumé:

- Second in franchise history, games played (509)

- First in franchise history, points (10,275)

- First in franchise history, rebounds (4,776)

- Five consecutive All-Star nominations as a Raptor (2006-2010)

Starting from when he was drafted fourth overall in the 2003 draft after the most-hyped top three picks in the history of the NBA draft — LeBron, Darko and Carmelo — Chris Bosh has always been viewed by the general NBA fanbase as an afterthought, a nice piece of the puzzle but not a player you’d want to build a team around. The fact that Dwyane Wade was selected right after Bosh in that draft hasn’t helped Bosh’s image as the quintessential sidekick.

Where I take issue with these criticisms about Chris Bosh is that there has only been one player in the history of this franchise who was talented enough to really build a championship-contending team around. We all know who that player is, and let’s take a moment to imagine what he could have accomplished in his career if he had Bosh’s drive to make the most of himself.

Think of all the criticisms and insults you’ve thrown at Chris Bosh in your time as a Raptors fan. Was “underachiever” one of them? This is a guy who was drafted out of Georgia Tech as a six-foot-10, 210-pound, 19-year-old and he held his own in his 2003-2004 rookie season while playing the majority of his minutes at center. I don’t recall hearing a single complaint from him as he got beat up by grown men with significantly more size and strength than him, and yet throughout his career he’s been viewed as one of the “softest” players in the league.

Chris Bosh is awkward, dorky, nerdy, and as far from cool as you can possibly be as a professional athlete. I recognize this because I share all of those traits (aside from the “pro athlete” part) and I know my own kind. But he sure as hell isn’t soft, and I can prove it. He finished top 10 in the NBA in free throw attempts in his last four seasons as a Raptor, and the reason he ranked that high is that he consistently drove to the basket and initiated contact with his defenders, over and over again. And then he made them pay by sinking 80 percent of his free throws.

This blog launched one season before Bosh was drafted by the Raptors, so I spent much of his seven-season tenure in Toronto defending his position as the team’s “alpha dog” after Carter was traded. At various points, I argued with fans of Charlie Villanueva, Andrea Bargnani, Jermaine O’Neal  and Hedo Turkoglu about who was the Raptors’ true leader. Bosh was a five-time All-Star (he missed the 2009 game due to injury) in Toronto, while his “competition” combined for zero All-Star appearances while they were Raptors. Potential is a wonderful thing, but Bosh realized his more than any Raptor in the history of this franchise

Sure, he didn’t lead the team past the first round of the playoffs — but he never had the supporting cast to do so. He gave his heart and soul to this team for six-and-a-half seasons (you all know what I’m alluding to here) and yet I don’t know a single Raptors fan who hopes to see him wearing a Raptors uniform again one day. Because he wasn’t a spectacular dunker or a flashy passer or a charismatic leader or Canadian, I never felt he was truly embraced and beloved by Raptors fans — many of whom seemed to focus mostly on what he couldn’t do.

Of course, the biggest criticism I heard about Bosh in Toronto is that he wasn’t “clutch” and he couldn’t win games for you at the buzzer. Man, people with selective memories are funny, aren’t they?

That was the only video evidence I could find of Bosh’s capability to perform in the clutch as as a Raptor, but it wasn’t hard to dig up more examples. He did not wilt under the spotlight of high-pressure situations:

  • March 17, 2010 — Hit a 16-foot jumper with two seconds left to beat the Hawks 106-105
  • January 28, 2010 — Scored on a layup with 15 seconds remaining to put the Raptors up by three before beating the Knicks 106-104
  • January 8, 2010 — Got three the hard way with eight seconds on the clock, Raptors topped Sixers 108-106
  • October 31, 2008 — Scored the Raptors’ final six points in regulation and four points in overtime in a 112-108 victory over the Warriors.

I was as angry as anyone when Bosh forsook this team to join LeBron and Wade in Miami, but it didn’t take me long to forgive him and understand why he did it. Who am I to judge someone for wanting to live the good life in warm weather, make a lot of money and potentially win multiple championships without having to shoulder the burden of blame if those titles don’t occur? People want to judge him for “riding the coat-tails” of LeBron and Wade, but those same people already knew that he wasn’t talented enough to lead a championship team by himself. After Vince Carter was traded in Bosh’s sophomore season, who was Bosh’s most talented teammate? Debate amongst yourselves, but I’m sure we can agree that none of them came close to approaching All-Star status.

Many NBA fans inexplicably view Bosh as a punchline now that he’s “only” the third-best player on the Miami Heat. That’s their prerogative, but how many fans viewed him as the least desirable of the top three power forward options (after Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer) in the 2010 free agency class? How many Bulls and Knicks fans don’t wish they could swap their guy for Bosh now?

Laugh it up, Bosh-haters. He still has a good number of years and a high probability of championship jewelry in front of him. I’m not rooting for him to win a title, but I’m long past rooting against him — whether or not you’ll feel that he earned that ring won’t matter to him.