It is late September 2013 and a Chihuahua in a pink floral dress prances over to Chris Bosh's size-15 black leather oxfords, flips over and squirms on its back on the carpet. Bosh is wearing a James Bond-meets-Miami black suit. No tie, the top two buttons of his shirt undone, white pocket square peeking out of his breast pocket. Sitting on a stiff, angular orange couch on the vibrant set of "Despierta América," Univision's national morning talk show in Miami, the 6-foot-11, two-time NBA champion looks like a grand piano in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese. The Chihuahua is the show's mascot, Honey Berry.
Bosh is here for a televised Spanish interview because of a bet he made with himself after the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs for the 2013 title. He read that the quickest way to learn a language is to set a goal. Lounging around one morning in late June watching "Despierta America" -- a mainstay in his Miami home thanks to his Venezuelan wife, Adrienne -- Bosh made a decision. He would pick out a day on the calendar to appear on a Spanish TV show to test his linguistic skills. He circled Sept. 26. Then three months flew by.
The live audience doesn't see the nerves that made his skin crawl just a few minutes ago backstage. Bosh says preparing for Game 7 of last year's NBA Finals was a breeze compared to this. The jovial host asks Bosh why he learned Spanish. The sprawling Chihuahua allows Bosh to laugh off the anxiety.
"Cuando era un niño," Bosh says cleanly and calmly, "siempre quería a aprender un otro idioma y es muy importante para mí porque la gente que habla más que solo una idioma es muy inteligente. Quiero estar inteligente."
In English: Ever since he was a kid, he wanted to learn multiple languages because smart people speak multiple languages. And he wanted to be smart.
Bosh nails the six-minute interview, but not without showing his insecurities. That's how he is -- uncommonly candid and contemplative in the face of scrutiny. At one point in the interview, he pauses midsentence to ask the host, in Spanish, whether he is using the correct tense for a phrase.
The host nods in confirmation. "Perfecto."
Bosh carries on with confidence, his hands telegraphing his words as he speaks. The host asks him why he seems like a different person here on set than when he is on the court.
"Siempre cuando estoy en el piso, tú tienes que ser otra persona," Bosh says. "Necesito a cambiar porque es muy importante que ganemos."
Translation: "When I'm on the floor, you have to be another person. I need to change because it's essential for us to win."
Bosh has a confession: He read the criticism.
On Twitter, the comment sections online, in the local papers. After games, before games, in the car, at dinner, hanging out with his kids.
He was in a dark place that first season in Miami. The whole team was. Dissected under a worldwide microscope, every word scrutinized and every move treated like a referendum on their careers. But he still pulled up the commentary and took in each line. He couldn't help himself.
"I read it all," Bosh says.
The ones that cut the deepest? The barbs that called him soft, often cloaked in veiled misogyny and homophobia.