TORONTO - There may not be a more popular ex-Maple Leaf than Doug Gilmour, who remains a local celebrity of significance 17 years after his best Toronto season.
The numbers: Gilmour played just five seasons in this city, although looking back, it seems like so much more.
There may not be a more revered ex-Blue Jay than Roberto Alomar, the Hall of Fame bound infielder, who last suited up for the Jays 16 years ago and left the city in a childish huff.
Like Gilmour, he lasted just five seasons here: Like most things over time, the number of years doesnít seem to equate to the quality of time spent here.
So many of the memorable athletes on our teams were in Toronto for short spurts. Terry Greer played six years for the Argos, Leon McQuay three, Doug Flutie won two championships in his only two seasons. Curtis Joseph, five seasons with the Leafs. Ed Belfour, three. Steve Thomas, five. Paul Molitor, two, for the Jays.
Long after Gilmour and Alomar and in between the Joseph years, Chris Bosh arrived in Toronto as a gawky teenager, tall, pencil thin, shy, uncertain. NBA stars werenít supposed to look like this and when you heard him speak, so demure, so polite, he didnít sound much like his league either.
Seven seasons later - most of it as a straight line on a team of few of those - he left the city and the Raptors because he had fulfilled his contractual obligations. He arrived as a child, departed as a man, his voice louder, his shoulders broader, his head a little larger than it needed to be, and his sense of self importance distorted by circumstance.
Pro sports can do that to the best and brightest of people. The Alomar who left the Jays in a fit is not the same man who returns for Flashback Fridays. Heís an adult now, was a child of immense ability and immaturity back then.
And just how Bosh is treated tonight, in his return to Toronto, will probably mean less to him now than it will five years, 10 years, 15 years down the road, where he can better understand the local resentment, why this city has to boo, because, frankly, there is nothing else to get fired up about when it comes to basketball. But understand this: Bosh played seven fine seasons for the Raptors. A longer run than Gilmour, Alomar, Joseph. Only one player, the somewhat forgettable Morris Peterson, has played more games as a Raptor. Bosh doesnít have the championship highlights that Alomar owns. He doesnít have the we-were-so-close moments that Gilmour lived through. This isnít his town in any way. What he has is a body of work unlike anyone who has played for this wonky franchise before.
Vince Carter was electric before he quit on the team and he has hardly been electric since. Bosh was Mats Sundin, without the playoff years. He played seven seasons and once he found his legs, basically scored 22 points a game, brought down between 9 and 11 rebounds, went to the all-star game every single season - first as a rookie, then sophomore, then the real game five times - shot within a percentage point of 50, didnít miss many games. Playoffs aside, night in, night out, he was a constant on a team with the roster changing regularly. The quest to surround him with better players was adventurous but never did result in a team that could contend.
Before last season ended, before he Tweeted and talked out both sides of his mouth and lost the social network war and some of his reputation, there was really only one time Bosh disappointed as a Raptor. It came in the one playoff series in which he could have made a difference. The Raptors played the New Jersey Nets. It was a series they should have won. Only Bosh was in and out, up and down, not the star he was purported to be.
But other than how he left town, how he may have misled management, how he insulted people without knowing he was even insulting them, there should be no reason for total animosity. Go ahead and boo Vince Carter. I will boo him to my grave. I find it difficult to feel the same kind of animosity for Bosh.
Even though there will certainly be boos Wednesday night. There will be boos, mostly, because thatís what we do. There are few Toronto basketball traditions, as someone on Twitter pointed out Tuesday, but booing former Raptors (even Kenny Anderson, who never reported in a trade) is one of them.
Chris Bosh played 520 games in a Toronto uniform, most of them hard, most of them well, most of them with athletic skill and integrity. You can be mad about how he chose to leave but not about how much he accomplished here.