MIAMI — When big man Tim Duncan won his first NBA ring in 1999, Chris Bosh wasn’t looking to emulate him.
He was paying attention to backcourt players.
“When he started having success, I was trying to be a guard,” Bosh, a Miami Heat center, said about when Duncan claimed his first of four titles with San Antonio . “I was heading into my sophomore year of high school. But then I had a growth spurt. In two years, I grew another five inches. I said, ‘I might as well be like those (big) guys.'”
One of those big men was Duncan. By 2001, Bosh said Duncan and then Minnesota power forward Kevin Garnett were “pretty much a tie for my favorite player.”
“I had ( Duncan’s) poster on my wall,” said Bosh, who grew up in Dallas.
Starting Thursday, the 6-foot-11 Bosh will try to posterize the player he grew up admiring. He will go against Duncan in the NBA Finals.
Being in Texas, Bosh followed Duncan closely early in the past decade. He began emulating his style.
“You see a big guy that was successful in fundamental moves, I said, ‘That’s right up my alley. I got to do that,'” Bosh said.
It turned out quite well for Bosh. He earned a scholarship to Georgia Tech, where he played the 2002-03 season before turning pro.
When Bosh was preparing for the 2003 NBA draft, he had a chance to check out Duncan in person. He went to a pair of games in Dallas as the Spurs beat the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals.
“I soaked up the action,” Bosh said of watching Duncan, who would go on that season to win his second NBA crown.
Ten years later, it’s the Heat battling San Antonio. It could be the last stand for the Spurs dynasty as Duncan, 37, is trying to win his fifth ring and Manu Ginobili, 35, and Tony Parker, 31, are each vying for a fourth.
“They’re one of the best dynasties of all time, and we’ll see how we stack up against each other,” Bosh said of the Spurs, who also won titles in 2005 and 2007. “I grew up in Texas, so I’ve seen what they’ve done. Of course, everybody knows what they’ve done. But we feel like it’s our time now.”
One could say it’s two dynasties passing in the night. The Spurs are trying to become just the fourth different NBA franchise to win five titles in a 15-year span as they return to the Finals for the first time since 2007. The Heat are going for a second second straight crown and a third in eight years, and certainly could win several more.
If the new dynasty is to beat the old dynasty, Bosh needs to play a key role. He’ll be counted on to do a decent job on Duncan, a 16-year veteran who was named to the All-NBA first team at center although he starts at power forward alongside center Tiago Splitter.
Bosh will need to shake off what has been an uneven postseason. At least he showed signs of doing that in Monday’s 99-76 win over Indiana in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
After a three-game stretch in which Bosh averaged 6.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.67 blocks and 0.33 steals, Bosh had nine points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals Monday. He shot just 3 of 10 but Bosh did enough to please Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
“I liked how aggressive he was to start the game,” Spoelstra said.”Putting the ball on the floor, challenging ( Indiana center Roy ) Hibbert. He had some open jumpers. He just couldn’t get them to fall. but his demeanor and deposition were good. Defensively, wow. He was playing a great motor.'”
That was in contrast to much of the previous part of the series, when the 7-2 Hibbert and burly Indiana power forward David West caused Bosh all sorts of problems. But Bosh vowed to be more aggressive in Game 7.
“I think it was a good game, but I still have to finish around the basket a little better,” Bosh said.
Now, he’ll take on another big team. Duncan and Splitter are both listed at 6-11, although the Spurs are more finesse oriented than the physical Pacers.
“They can do a bit of everything,” Bosh said.”Their starting front line is big. But when they start into the pace of the game, they spread you out a little bit. They move the ball like we do. They’re very difficult to guard. They present a lot of challenges.”
Bosh vows to be ready. So what if he used to idolize Duncan, he believes it’s now the Heat’s time.