Nearly five years ago, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were trying to win their second consecutive NBA Finals as members of the Miami Heat. With seven seconds to go in Game 6 and his team down 3–2 in the series to the San Antonio Spurs, Ray Allen made one of the greatest shots in NBA history to tie the game and eventually propel his team to both game and series wins. But before that shot, there was the offensive rebound that made it possible. Bosh joined The Bill Simmons Podcast this week to break down the play and everything that led up to it.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Bill Simmons: The greatest play of your career, I’m not even sure people fully understand what it was — it was one of the great rebounds of all time.
Chris Bosh: So, I’ll tell you a story. When I was in Toronto, Sam Mitchell was my coach, and I was averaging like 20-something points a game. And if I wasn’t scoring in the first half, I’d just be terrible.
Bosh: I’d play a bad game. And [Mitchell] pulled me to the side one day [and said], “Hey, man, look. … Just because you’re not scoring, you can’t let that affect you. You’re still a great player. You need to be like that on both ends of the court. Just because you’re not scoring doesn’t mean you can’t rebound, and you know, be a bum on defense. You have to do better — you gotta do better.” He was always on me. And in that particular series [against the Spurs], offense was not gonna be it for me.
Simmons: The ’13 Finals.
Bosh: Yeah. It was too tough to get a bucket. We have a plethora of talent on offense, so we’ve gotta move [the ball]. If I’ve got it, I’ve got it. If I don’t, move it. … But I had to be a certain type of player on defense. You have to be great on defense — you have to be great in the little things. And that message was always resonating with me, the whole series. Especially when it got tough, because you know, you try to remember old lessons and things just come to you at certain times. And what he told me back then was huge.
Simmons: And you ended up getting the rebound that leads to the greatest shot of all time. And you get a rebound in traffic.
Bosh: It didn’t feel like traffic to me.
Simmons: In the video, it’s traffic.
Bosh: It was just one of those things, like, “This is mine.” You know? It was meant for me. It was like slow motion. … I watched the replay of it, and it was way faster than what it looked like. I thought it was way slower, and somebody showed me. Because it was like, “How did you see Ray [Allen]?” And I said, “I don’t know, he was just right there. It just made sense.” [Laughs.] You know what I mean? He was looking at me. You know, you just pass it.
Simmons: And the one guy in history who had actually practiced that shot, because [Allen is] a psychopath.
Bosh: Yeah, yeah. He is a psycho. [Laughs.]
Simmons: And he spends three hours before the game practicing his footwork for that shot. Who else would even think to do that?
Bosh: [Laughs.] I know. And I asked him, after the game — I’m kind of just in a daze. I was in a daze for 24 hours. You know, like, “Did that happen?” It’s like, you’re checking you to make sure you’re still alive, right? [Laughs.]
Bosh: And you know, we hit the showers, and I asked him, like, “You practiced that?” And he said, “Yeah, I practiced that.”
Simmons: He’s like, “I’m a crazy person, I do practice that.”
Bosh: And ever since that day, I practice that same shot. I watched him doing drills — he’ll lay on the floor and get up and run to the 3-point line and shoot it. You know?
Simmons: So I was there, because we were doing TV that year, and then I wrote a column about it a year later, because I still couldn’t get over the game. I’ve been to a lot of great basketball games, I’ve been lucky. That one — I’ve never seen anything like that. You guys were done, the crowd was leaving …
Bosh: Yeah, we were up and then we were done. It happened so quickly. [Laughs.]
Simmons: All of a sudden, you’re down five, 28 seconds left, they’re starting to put the rope [out], they wheel the trophy out. And then LeBron misses a 3, and the first crazy thing that happened was — there’s four Spurs under the basket in a square, and all of them miss the rebound. I think all of them might have touched it.
Bosh: I don’t know who touched it, but I know it came down …
Simmons: Like seven people on the court touched [it].
Bosh: It was a brick. It was a tough miss.
Simmons: Yeah, it was a brick. It was terrible.
Bosh: If it would’ve hit the rim any other way, they probably would’ve got the rebound and now we’re in deeper trouble.
Simmons: Right, but [Dwyane] Wade comes in and grabs it.
Bosh: Yeah, D was able to get a hand on it.
Simmons: Back to LeBron, he makes it. So now you’re down two. And you foul Kawhi [Leonard]. And he was shooting the free throws — our set was right behind the basket. And I gotta say, man, sometimes I don’t know how athletes do it. The crowd was — everybody was standing and just yelling at him, trying to distract him. And it was so intense. He had a look on his face — I didn’t think he had any chance of making those. He missed the first, but he actually made the second.
Bosh: Made the second. That first one is always tough. And one thing I notice — when that happens, you can feel shaking.
Simmons: Yeah! You could feel it in the arena. Absolutely.
Bosh: Yeah. So when you’re shooting those free throws — and I’ve never shot any free throws more important than that, but I’ve shot some important ones — sometimes the basket moves. Sometimes you’re moving. And it’s like, man, it is deafeningly loud in here, and my hand is shaking. Because the stadium is shaking. And you’re supposed to make it! [Laughs.] That’s tough.
Simmons: I would have bet my life he was gonna miss both. Because you’re right, you could feel the earth kind of moving. It did seem like the basket wasn’t totally straight. And everyone’s just yelling at the top of their lungs at him — it’s 20,000 people.
Bosh: Yeah. That’s a lot of noise.
Simmons: And I was just like, how is this guy gonna do it? He was 21 years old. Even him making the second one, I thought, was an achievement.
Bosh: Yeah. Our game plan, which is crazy to say, but the thing in the huddle was like, “Hey, if we can foul anybody, the worst foul shooter is Kawhi Leonard at 69.5 percent.”
Simmons: That’s still seven out of 10.
Bosh: Yeah. It’s still seven out of 10. And he got the ball, and we fouled him. So I mean, it just kind of worked out.
Simmons: So you’re in that timeout down five, with 28 [seconds] left. And everybody’s defeated.
Bosh: For a moment, yeah. [Laughs.]
Simmons: Yeah. So at that point—because that was the same year you had that 27-game winning streak. LeBron had come out … and was shooting 60 percent for two months.
Bosh: Yeah, he was going crazy.
Simmons: And it was like, “Oh my God. What is happening?” And then all of a sudden, it’s like, “Wow, we’re gonna lose the Finals. This is it. What the hell is happening?” But all of this is happening during a three-minute timeout. What are you thinking in that moment?
Bosh: First, was like — oh, oh no. Because the whole sequence was—Tony Parker had the ball. Our game plan at the time was to put, I think, Bron on the , that way we could switch to pick-and-roll, and have him [defending] Tony, late clock. It happened.
And we switched. … Their play breaks down — he’s switched on Tony. I’m like, “Yes. This is what we want.” He hits a stepback 3.
Bosh: We’re shocked. So then we turn it over. They score. We turn it over. They score. And then it’s like, oh no. Then they turn it over … and then they have the ball up five. So we call a timeout. And … I start getting flashbacks to [the 2011 Finals loss to] Dallas. … I’m shell-shocked pretty bad. We go over and sit down. I start looking at everybody. Everybody’s lookin’ down, LeBron is bitin’ the hell out of his nails.
Simmons: Is that a good sign or a bad sign?
Bosh: Uh, it’s not good at that time. [Laughs.] It’s not good at that time. It was just the way he was doing it. It was more like … he was chewing. It was like, “Bron, there’s no nail left, bro.”
Everybody’s just kinda got that thousand-yard stare. And so I sit down, and I’m just kinda looking at everybody else. And I always tell this story to friends and everything, but my wife—she sits courtside. She was not looking at me. And for whatever reason, she started standing up and clapping. And so that snapped me back into it, and I was like, “OK. We got the ball, we need a 3.”
Simmons: Wow, what an inspiring story about marriage. … This is like Adrian Balboa in Rocky III, where she gets Rocky back.
Bosh: Yeah, it is! She got Rocky back, man. They make those movies for a reason. [Laughs.] And she stood up clapping, and she wasn’t even looking at me. She could’ve looked at me with the puppy-dog eyes and [been] like, “It’ll be OK.” But I don’t even know what she was looking at. She was just looking toward the other basket, just clapping.
Simmons: So you miss the 3 to tie it. You get the rebound. Ray’s backpedaling, and because he’s a psycho, he knows exactly where the out of bounds is, and the 3-point line, he knows the number of footsteps.
Bosh: Yeah. He is the court. [Laughs.]
Simmons: I rooted for him in Boston—even as he’s going backward, I was like, “He’s gonna make this.” I honestly felt like he was gonna make it.
Bosh: Out of all the people, it’s Ray Allen.
Simmons: Did you feel the same way? It was like, “Oh my God, it’s going in.”
Bosh: You know, I told you it was slow motion. I was able to get the rebound, and I was able to watch the flight of the ball. … Tony Parker sniffed out the play we were running, but it was almost like he was too smart. Because he sniffed the play, and Bron still caught it anyway, but Boris Diaw stepped up as well, and they both kind of had him. So that allowed me a free track to the basket.