Chris Bosh hasn’t played professional basketball in two years. The former Miami Heat star’s last NBA game came on February 9, 2016, when he tallied 18 points and five rebounds in 35 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs. But soon after, a blood clot was discovered in Bosh’s left leg, just a year after he’d been hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs. In June, an NBA doctor ruled Bosh’s illness to be career ending, and he was cut by the Miami Heat. This week, Bosh joined The Bill Simmons Podcast to talk about his last season, his health, and his relationship with Pat Riley and the Heat.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Bill Simmons: Was [the blood clot issue in your lung in 2015] life threatening in the moment?
Chris Bosh: Yeah, it was life threatening in the moment. I didn’t know it was life threatening, and then they were like, “Yeah, we’re going to check you into the hospital.” And as I’m being checked into the hospital I see that [the Heat] just traded for Goran [Dragic], and I’m like, OK, I don’t know what all this stuff means. But then they start hooking me up to machines, and they start telling me, “The next 24 hours is crucial.” Then I had to call my wife and she Googles blood clots and … I think it was Jerome Kersey, he had just passed, and so she’s freaking out, I’m freaking out. … And then when I think I’m going in the hospital, they’re like, “Yeah, no, we’ve got to do surgery on you.”
Simmons: Wow. So you found that out pretty quickly.
Bosh: I found that out four days later. Been in the hospital four days, I’m like “All right, going home.” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’ve got to do surgery on you tomorrow morning. We’ve got to really just go in there and clean it out.” And so I had surgery and was there for another week. It was a very interesting time. Very, very tough time in my life.
And then after that [I] came back the next year. And then going into the All-Star break, [I] played every game and then going into All-Star break, you know, felt a little soreness in my calf. I’m like, “Let me just make sure everything’s cool.” And then there was a distal blood clot, but when you say that, everybody just jumps for the moon. It’s like, “Oh my god!”
Bosh: And the season was a wrap. Tried to get back, but it just didn’t work.
Simmons: Did they ever tell you why they thought you had this? Just total fluke, or —
Bosh: Yeah, I don’t have hereditary markers. That’s the first thing they check for is: Is it hereditary? And it’s not hereditary, so there’s really no explanation. I mean, we can theorize — [but] you don’t want to deal with that stuff.
Simmons: I was really worried about you, beyond the normal reasons, just because I was in Boston when the whole Reggie Lewis thing happened, and they had a disagreement with the doctors. And I was at the game when he basically passed out, against Charlotte in the playoff series. And we thought he pulled a hamstring or something. I was sitting in the tunnel, he walked right by us, and it was like, “Oh, I wonder if he’s going to come back.” And that was the last time we ever saw him wearing a Celtic uniform.
And then there was this back-and-forth about whether he should play again or not, and [he] found this one doctor who cleared him and they brought him back. And he died like two months later …
Bosh: Well, the thing about it is, it hasn’t been talked about. That’s the problem. There’s nothing — they treated me just like [they’d] treat an 80-year-old patient. So there’s one size fits all — it’s not a plan, it’s not a program. … They don’t follow up and say, “Hey, it’s been six months,” or “Hey, it’s been X amount of time, make sure you do this.” There’s no plan for that. They just put the medicine in you and, “Any questions?” That’s it. And this could be months later, weeks later, years later for some people.
Simmons: So you had to reconcile, as an athlete basically in the prime of his career, what are the risks?
Bosh: Yeah, it’s like, it’s in my calf, it’s a distal vein — that was the whole argument. It’s a distal vein, it’s not like in a big vein, and it’s in my calf. It’s just weird. And I think it’s just one of those things — it’s a box you don’t want to open. If you test guys for that, you’d probably find some information you don’t want to find out. … And for whatever reason I’m in this position.
It’s been a blessing, really, because I’ve been able to do other things and kind of see things from another perspective. And yeah, it’s kind of wack to be in that position because of that. I felt that we had a great team [in 2016]. I wanted to compete for a championship. I wanted to get back to the throne, and it would have been classic to play Cleveland that year. That’s all that was on my mind, was to get to the Eastern Conference finals and compete. Once you’re there, we felt that we had a chance — if we get there. And I had all these factors that I was playing in my head, and it happened exactly the way that I thought it would. Playing Toronto, Cleveland’s there, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Simmons: How long did it take you to come to grips with everything?
Bosh: Two years. Two years, and that’s just for that particular point in my life. It’s tough, man.
Simmons: You’ve been playing basketball since when, since you were like 3?
Bosh: Since I was 8 years old. I mean, I picked up a basketball a long, long time ago, but organized since I was 8, 9 years old. And yeah, you’re kind of at a space where it’s like, “Well, what do I do now? What am I even thinking about? What even do I like?” And then you kind of become bitter, and it’s a lot stages you have to beat.
But yeah, I was in the middle of more work. I still wanted to be — it was that last thing to be solidified, to be like, “Oh, he was pretty good.” It was like the superficial muscles. It’s like, “OK, I’m in shape, but now I’m just doing my curls. Just working on my beach muscles.” And, you know, if I do come back it won’t be in that capacity. It’ll be like end-of-the-bench team guy. Blow the dust off him and see if he can do it.
Simmons: The silver lining is — let’s say you’re not a professional athlete. Maybe you don’t even know you have this. Like, if you’re just a normal person, you’re just an accountant or something, how would you even know there was something wrong until maybe it’s too late?
Bosh: That’s true, that’s very true. And I mean, it got very bad. I knew because the first time my lungs were collapsed, and I was having pains. It’s like something is wrong. And then a month later, then I went. So I was very lucky and very fortunate — I think about those things every day. … And the second time, it’s funny, like you said, everybody asked, “Are you OK? Are you OK?” I’m like, “I’m fine.” It’s just, you’re doing what you do now, and then tomorrow — “Yeah, no, you just got to chill.” And that was it.
Simmons: And that’s where the bitterness comes in.
Bosh: I mean, not anymore. That’s where it came for a while. Because you feel like it’s some unforeseen force that kind of makes things happen. But I didn’t think of it like that for too long, because there’s no reason to. It’s not going to change your situation. So you might as well take it and work with it.
Simmons: Do you get along with the Heat now?
Bosh: Yeah, me and [Miami Heat president] Pat [Riley] had lunch two months ago. I mean, look: It’s business. I understand that. I understand the situation that they were in.
Simmons: And they’re also worried about you as a human being, too.
Bosh: Yeah. They’re worried about me as a human being, but —
Simmons: It’s also a business.
Bosh: It’s also a business, and they have a ship to run. And we had many conversations. … I sat down with Pat many times, and sometimes we were disagreeing, and that’s fine. But at the end of the day, we both got what we wanted. We both got severance. And that’s what it’s about. And after that it was like, “OK, we’ve moved on our separate ways.”