DALLAS -- Walking into the J.C. Phelps Recreation Center, Chris Bosh is about 20 miles from the childhood home where he used to pick pecans from his yard for hours at a time, both as a chore and to turn a profit.
He's just a few minutes away from the high school where he was mocked for speaking like a gentleman but celebrated for dominating the basketball court like a bully.
He's a two-and-a-half hour flight from his new hometown of Miami, where he has yet to find an actual home but has already been greeted with legendary acclaim.
And he's an eternity away from his previous, seven-year existence as a Toronto Raptor, even though it has been mere days since he made the departure official.
Here, in the center of this non-descript, dimly lit gymnasium packed with exhausted but eager campers waiting to meet the 6-10 local hero, Bosh isn't detached from anything. He's in his element. He's part of the fabric.
Here is one of the places where Bosh began playing basketball, where his dad would bring Chris and his brother Joel along while he played and his sons initially discovered their own talent.
Bosh's dreams developed here, but as has already happened so many times in his life, his reality is surpassing anything he could've conjured up as a tiny Texan with hardly a hint of twang.
He's a member of suddenly the most notable and notorious basketball team on the planet, where he not only plans to but is expected to win and win and win some more.
This, now, finally, is exactly where Bosh wants to be.
"I have seven years to make up for," Bosh said, sitting inside the gym where children can't help but stop him and ask him questions that generally revolve around one of two topics, his hairstyle switch from short dreadlocks to buzz cut, or his decision to team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for the Miami Heat.
"You happy that you're playing with LeBron now?" one camper asked.
"Of course," Bosh replied. "You make decisions because you want to be happy."
Bosh never figured he'd be making any decisions this momentous -- the kind that result in worldwide attention and concert stages being built overnight in anticipation of your arrival. At least not while he and his brother were growing up in Hutchins, Texas, a town of less than 3,000 about 20 minutes outside of Dallas.
Joel Bosh, just two years younger than Chris, paused between syllables for emphasis when describing his original hometown.
"Coun-try," Joel said.
Mom Freida, a Dayton, Ohio, native, and dad Noel, whose father gave the couple the Hutchins home, had rather strict rules. A modest income didn't allow for many of the electronic bells and whistles some of the other kids had, and the family followed a rather simple work-reward system.
"I remember my dad, he had us outside picking pecans for, like, four hours," Bosh said. "He'd make us work two hours, take a 15-minute break and we had to make our own lunch, then go back out there. But the money that we got from cashing them, he let us keep.
"We had pecan trees in the backyard. They were all over the place, all over Hutchins. That was like free money falling off the trees. He taught us the value of hard work."
Freida educated in other areas, having the boys read as often as possible, and demanding they speak proper English.
Being well-spoken may have made his mom proud, but it hardly helped in the area of street cred.
"Mispronouncing words and shortening words and stuff, yeah, I can do that, but I don't," Bosh said. "I'd rather not. My mom would get mad at me. Yeah, (friends) gave me grief for that. But I kept going, and guess what, it paid off."
Fortunately for Bosh, by the time he moved to Lincoln High School in Dallas, he was a 6-7 freshman. A lack of a particular accent or any specific slang wasn't going to hurt his image as long as he continued to develop his basketball game.
Though Bosh dabbled in other sports, it was basketball that came most naturally to him. The sport was never forced upon Bosh, whose parents were both around 6-2 but his dad played basketball only recreationally and his mother preferred track in her youth.
"The craziest thing my father ever told me was, 'Hey man, you got to have a scholarship, because I can't afford college,"' Bosh said. "That's some pep talk. I was 14 and I was like, 'Huh?"'
There weren't many pep talks needed -- not for Bosh, whose desire to win was so strong he shed tears after every single loss he experienced in middle school.
"My whole lifetime in basketball, my winning percentage is probably 30 percent, counting little league. I always just remember being on the losing end," Bosh said.
"Even then I was like, 'Well this isn't fun. I don't care if we're going for pizza after the game. I want to win the game.' I just love to win. I knew that back then, and it's gotten tougher for me as a grown man."
By the start of his senior year at Lincoln, a basketball powerhouse in Texas, Bosh had grown to be 6-9. Not until his final year was he considered the star of his team. That honor went to guard Brian Hopkins, a local legend who went on to shine at Southern Methodist University and now plays professionally in Belgium.
But behind Bosh that senior season, Lincoln went 40-0, taking home the state title.
"We played against (current NBA players) Deron Williams, Ike Diogu, Kendrick Perkins," Lincoln head coach Leonard Bishop said. "We played a lot of pros during that time. And all our games were really tough games.
"I think what Chris had was, really, the desire to be successful and the work ethic as well as the intellect. The only thing that he needed was the basketball drills."
Even with all the team and individual success, Bosh never figured he was on the verge of anything spectacular. His dad's pep talk helped him set the goal of playing for Division I basketball, but those around him saw far more potential.
Thomas Hill, the former Duke player who was part of two national championship teams, was a Lancaster, Texas, native who briefly tutored Bosh.
"He used to work me out," Bosh said. "I guess he saw something special in me. I told him, 'Yeah, I do want to go D-1.' He was like, 'Oh man, that's easy. Just keep working.'
"Guys like that, those are the guys that kind of put it in my head the right way. It was like, 'Really? I'm that good?"'
Good enough that he had his choice of major colleges, with Florida and Memphis among his finalists. But Bosh chose Georgia Tech, primarily because he could play immediately, and he all of a sudden had NBA aspirations.
Even then, however, he never expected it to happen so quickly. As a freshman, he averaged 15 points and nine rebounds. And while the rest of the basketball world assumed Bosh would have a one-year college career, the 19-year-old had no idea it would happen so suddenly. Neither did any member of his family.
"Somebody told me, 'Your brother, on the mock draft, he's No. 4,"' Joel Bosh said. "I was like, 'What's a mock draft?' I looked it up and I saw the other names, and I was like, 'Wow."'
Bosh went as predicted, the No. 4 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, sandwiched between No. 3 pick Carmelo Anthony and the fifth pick Wade.
The spot in the draft wasn't the problem for Bosh. It was the location of the team selecting him.
Toronto is far from one of the more desirable NBA destinations. The Raptors have lucked out in the draft with players such as Vince Carter and Bosh, but it's not a place many American-born players long to be.
A teenage Bosh was no exception.
"I didn't want to go there," Bosh said. "It was different. All I knew was Vince Carter was there and I never saw him play on TV. It was a whole different country, and it was just different. I'm 19 years old, I didn't know anything about culture and being away from home. All I know is the States.
"Toronto's a great place, a fantastic city. It's a metropolitan area, but you could tell you're somewhere different. You could feel it, you could look at it, you can smell it. Everything. All your senses tell you you're somewhere different."
It just so happened Bosh was a bit of a different character himself. Not your typical NBA teenager. Not your typical NBA personality.
FACE OF THE RAPTORS
It helped his transition. He convinced himself that the Raptors were a franchise on the rise, with the potential to become an elite team. When the team traded its previous franchise player, Carter, early in Bosh's second season, suddenly he was the face of the organization. When the hockey-crazed city thought of basketball, it was the lanky big man that now came to mind.
Once again, Bosh was overwhelmed with the idea that he was that good, talented enough for an entire franchise to build and work around him.
"I had to work a lot, lot harder to succeed now because I was the focal point of the team," Bosh said. "They're trying to stop you? That's not a good feeling -- especially when your (teammates) are struggling. Every night they're trying to stop you. But then if I'm struggling, they're like, 'He only had 16 points.' Well, damn, they double-teamed me the whole game. What do you want me to do?"
Bosh made the conversion quite well, however. By his fourth season in the league, he wasn't just a rising basketball star. He was an emerging personality.
Bosh put up All-Star numbers, so he decided to put up an All-Star campaign on the Internet. Bosh put together a short video in which he played the part of a car salesman, only he was requesting All-Star votes. The video went viral, and he made his first All-Star team.
Back at Lincoln High, Bosh was part of a magnet program, specializing in television and radio. It was then that Bosh began to foster a love for the electronic arts. Combine that with a creative mind and an outgoing personality, and Bosh was a natural, electronic-age entertainer.
It was evident even as a high school sophomore, according to his brother.
"We had to invent a product and market it and all that stuff," said Joel, who also played at Lincoln and for four years at the University of South Alabama. "He did. It was kind of clever, but it was corny.
"He made up Spoap, the sponge with soap. It was supposed to be a sponge with soap already in it. And he shot a commercial for that. I guess that's where he started seeing what he could create."
Bosh isn't particularly proud of his Spoap idea these days. But he's had plenty more successful follow-ups the last few years. He's been Blane Harrington, a British reporter.
"Blane Harrington is a terrible character," Joel said. "He's a very terrible nerd that Chris created."
He also made a video prior to the 2008 Olympics, in which he played a character resembling Mickey Goldmill, the trainer in the first two Rocky movies.
"I mean, you can find anything to write about," Bosh said. "I just tried doing all these characters because I saw how the All-Star video just took flight. This is who I am and this is what I enjoy doing. I make silly videos. If you don't think it's funny, who cares. I laugh. That's all that matters."
The laughter, though, was temporary. At least when it came to basketball in Toronto. Yes, Bosh won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008, but that only reintroduced him to the practice of winning, which he hadn't experienced since his 40-0 senior season. It further flamed a fire that was always there but the rest of the league barely noticed because, well, he was in Toronto.
Bosh played in all of 11 playoff games in his first seven years, winning three and never escaping the first round. He made four All-Star teams, but never received many more individual accolades because his team success rarely matched the individual numbers.
"Last year was the biggest disappointment," said Bosh, who added 20 pounds of muscle last offseason to keep from getting pushed around. "That taught me numbers don't mean anything. I averaged 24 and 10.5, and I didn't even make any (first-, second- or third-) team NBA. I was mad as hell that day, like, 'Really?' That (stuff) hurts.
'IT JUST NEVER HAPPENED'
"It just seemed nothing ever worked out in Toronto. And that's no offense to them or the organization. It just never happened.
"I hate losing probably more than anybody in the world. But it's just been my fate so far."
So while teams like the Heat and Cavaliers were hoping to hang on to their own free agents this summer, when many of the league's premier players, including Bosh, hit the open market at once, the Raptors held out little hope Bosh would re-sign.
It was a foregone conclusion that he would head elsewhere.
Unlike James, who was criticized from start to finish during his free-agency experience, Bosh had heard nothing but support and encouragement. If the city of Toronto was clamoring for his return or condemning his decision to leave, it was barely heard this side of the border.
And he certainly had the support of those around him.
"I just love my son," Freida Bosh said. "I just told him, whatever you choose to do, I'll be with you."
Turns out Wade was with him, too. So was James. And so was built this unprecedented trio that has taken over sports conversations across the country.
When Bosh was introduced alongside Wade and James on that smoke-filled stage exploding with pyrotechnics at AmericanAirlines Arena, he already felt like a winner without having played a single game in a Heat uniform.
"I remember looking up, like, 'Man, I need to have fun with this,"' Bosh said. "I just want to be in that environment because I haven't been in those situations."
Even at home, in that camp that his foundation has run for five years, surrounded by the familiar, Bosh feels a difference.
"They know who I play for now," Bosh said. "They know my teammates."
He's still months away from playing a game with his new team and his reinvigorated need to win. He's almost a year away from even having a chance at realizing his dream of being an NBA champion.
And yet right now, here at home, Bosh is glowing with the radiance of success. He's standing close to the place he went 40-0 and won at the highest level he could. After years of never truly believing it could happen again, the possibility is standing right in front of him. It's exactly where he wants to be.
"That's why I struggled," Bosh said. "That's why I felt like crying after every tough loss. I look at everything like, 'Why was this so hard?'
"Everything happens for a reason. I think that this coming situation, that's the reason for it."