Dallas native Chris Bosh stays focused

Chris Bosh can be proud of the legacy he left behind in his hometown.

The accolades he collected while at Dallas' Lincoln High School are clear indications of why that would be the case.

In Bosh's senior year, Lincoln went 40-0 and won the state championship and a mythical national title. In that 2002 state title game, Bosh outplayed Beaumont Ozen standout Kendrick Perkins. He collected a Texas Mr. Basketball title and was named to multiple first-team All-America squads.

Since Dallas-Fort Worth was without a top college basketball program, leaving the area was an easy decision for Bosh.

He loved the city of Atlanta, had relatives who attended Georgia Tech and was impressed by then-coach Paul Hewitt. Bosh attended Georgia Tech for one season before heading to the NBA. He was drafted by the Toronto Raptors and played eight seasons with them before joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat this season.

Bosh returns home this weekend as a member of the Heat's Big Three, facing the team he grew up watching but not rooting for -- the Dallas Mavericks. Expect Bosh to be welcomed by most of the crowd at American Airlines Center like everybody else wearing Heat colors -- rudely. But you also can expect open arms and cheers from the friends and family who know him best.

Bosh has dealt with intense scrutiny all season. He grew frustrated with trying to find his place on the floor alongside Miami's other two superstars. As a 6-foot-10 big man, Bosh isn't really a post player. He can shoot the midrange jumper and has the skills to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. It was a work in progress all season trying to find that comfort zone.

"There's always challenges when things like that just come up," he said. "Things have changed. It's a different perspective, and I'm just trying to win, that's all. I'm playing in [the Finals] like I may never come back. That's the opportunity and chance that I feel like I have."

That opportunity reminds longtime friend and high school teammate Kevis Shipman just how determined Bosh can be. He expects nothing less than complete focus from his friend in this series. Shipman recalls an AAU tournament in Las Vegas just before Bosh's senior year.

"Coach [Mike Krzyzewski], all the scouts were there, and Chris just turned it up and said, 'This is my tournament,'" Shipman said.

That drive to be the best makes Bosh realize he made the right decision to not re-sign with Toronto. He noted he was pulled by opposing teams, family and friends to go to this city or that city. Family members joke with him now that he should have signed with the Mavericks. Yet they all respect his decision.

Bosh says he never really considered his hometown team because Dirk Nowitzki, also a power forward, was the incumbent in that role.

While Bosh grew up in Dallas, the Mavs were a terrible franchise. Mark Cuban turned things around after he purchased the team in 2000, and Nowitzki developed into a franchise player. Bosh said it was fun to watch the Mavericks and see how Nowitzki emerged as a Hall of Fame talent. But the Chicago Bulls were on television so much during Bosh's years as a teenager that he followed them the most.

So when it was time for Bosh to make a decision on free agency, there was no emotional attachment to the Mavericks.

"I wanted to win; that was my common denominator for everything," Bosh said. "I always reminded myself, when things got tough, OK, this is for winning, and I kept telling myself [that], even when I was just frustrated in trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be on the court."

Those who know Bosh say he's not afraid of the challenge that awaits him. He was raised by two parents who told him to keep a level head and to understand that while basketball is important, there's a bigger world out there.

"Chris was always an outgoing person as far as learning is concerned," said Bosh's high school coach, Leonard Bishop. "He wanted to be successful not just in basketball but in life. At Lincoln he was part of the Minority Engineering Program, involved in lots of after-school projects. A well-rounded kid who understood the world."

When he committed to Georgia Tech, Bosh said at the time that he wanted to study architecture. Friends say it's not strange to see this evolution of a skinny kid on the basketball team who kept growing and growing.

He went from 6-8 to 6-9 to eventually 6-10 from his sophomore year to his senior year.

Bosh's friends understand his intensity and how he goes about his business. He has turned off his cellphone during the Finals and jokes that he's detached himself from society.

On Sunday, Bosh will rejoin it, trying to overcome his offensive struggles and deal with his defensive lapse that helped cost his team Game 2.

His friends say this is a challenge Bosh will overcome. He won't let reporters speak with family members, telling them to call his high school basketball coach instead. He wants everyone close to him to share his narrow focus.

"He's actually a humble kid," Shipman said. "He's pretty much the same guy that I knew growing up. A funny guy, who challenges himself and is mentally strong. A hard worker. Nothing gets to him."

However the crowd reacts to Bosh's return home at the American Airlines Center on Sunday night, Bosh's focus will be to erase what's happened to him in South Beach and make his decision worth it.

Calvin Watkins is a reporter for ESPNDallas.com.