Basketball’s bad boys back in town

At Friday’s All-Star media gathering, Chris Bosh described himself and his Miami Heat teammates as modern-day outlaws, especially in Los Angeles, site of the 60th NBA midseason classic.

“No, the fans here don’t like us too much,” laughed Bosh, a six-time All-Star, “or anywhere else for that matter.”

So, does he expect to get booed Sunday, along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?

“Oh no, it’s all good now,” Bosh said. “It’s the All-Star Game. Everybody’s here to have fun. But when we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, (fans) will hate us again.”

All of this was said very light-heartedly, almost like he was joking about the entire matter.

But he wasn’t.

As the NBA season has progressed and the Heat have become a force in the East, the venom tossed at the Big Three – especially James – has risen along with their winning percentage.

With every early Heat loss, it was celebration time in the other NBA cities, especially in Cleveland, where LeBron is more of a villain than Art Modell. When Miami started crushing teams, it got no better, with bitter fans cursing them at every turn and some talk show callers ignorantly hoping for some season-ending injuries.

Why?

Well, it’s extremely obvious: LeBron James made a mistake. Not in leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat, but in the way he bolted.

Frenzied fans and observers failed to stop and realize that James made a prudent decision to play for a better team in a sexier town. Business wise, it may not have been so prudent. He probably left 30-40 million dollars of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s money on the table in moving to South Beach. No matter how rich you are, leaving that much money behind means you made the decision for the right reasons. But it was “The Decision” that brought out the haters.

“The Decision” was a terrible PR move for James, even though the money paid by ESPN was donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs. Again, right move, wrong execution.

And saying “I’m taking my talents” to the Heat only sealed the ugly deal.

But it hasn’t been just King James getting crucified by the fans and the media. Bosh and Dwyane Wade have found their every move scrutinized.

And Bosh, for one, is a bit taken aback by the reaction.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Bosh admitted. “I think we were all surprised how negative some people were, how negative their reactions were. We didn’t let it affect us though. We just used it to give us more motivation, and we just kept playing.

“We’d love to be loved. (And) that will eventually happen. But we know (right now) people don’t want us to win, and we can’t let that affect our play. We’ll just keep putting the team first like we have all season, and keep the big goal (an NBA title) in mind.”

James said the “Big Three” has already proved the naysayers wrong. But he’s trying to stay as humble as possible, knowing that until he gets that first ring, he’ll never get everyone’s respect.

“We have a good team right now,” James said. “We’ve got one of the best records in the NBA. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. Every day, every practice, every scrimmage, every shoot-around, we try to use those moments to improve our team.

“We know that we have to win — win a championship — so we can move on and continue to be a great team for a long time.”

Bosh agrees, and feels that in the long-term, the Heat may shed its current stigma.

“We have some obstacles to overcome. We need to keep improving, keep getting better all the time in order to get where we want to be. Then people will appreciate us. I believe that.”