Chris Bosh on road to recovery, All-Star return to Toronto

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

MIAMI -- The appreciative smile comes easy now for Chris Bosh.

The versatile Miami Heat forward embraces the subtle humor he finds in those moments that once haunted him. This time exactly a year ago, Bosh sat shirtless in front of his locker after a demoralizing loss to former teammate LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers knocked the Heat eight games below .500 and reeling into the 2015 All-Star break.

That was the moment Bosh clasped his hands together as if praying, then raised his head skyward and sort of facetiously pleaded toward the heavens.

"It can't get any worse than this, can it?" Bosh whispered at the time.

Of course, it could get worse.

And of course, it did.

That 20-point loss on Feb. 11, 2015, was the final regular-season game Bosh would play that season. A week later, he was in a Miami hospital initially battling for his life after blood clots were discovered in his lungs. His comeback over the past 12 months has been well documented and stands as one of the most compelling stories through the first half of the NBA season.

"It's strange how life works," Bosh, 31, said as he reflected on his 13th NBA season. "A lot happens in a year."

As Bosh prepares to return to Toronto for his 11th NBA All-Star appearance on Sunday, he spoke with ESPN.com about the path his life and career have taken over the past year back to health, happiness, breakout production and the city where he spent his first seven seasons before he left to join the Heat.

It's probably not something you'd acknowledge as an anniversary, but 12 months ago you were in a completely different physical situation and at a major crossroads in your life and career. What are your thoughts as you reflect back on how far you've come since then?

Bosh: I was just trying to make it through. Just knowing what has transpired over the whole 12 months, it was kind of like a very slow process physically, to get back in shape. I realized that pushing your body to get back to what it was at 31 is a lot different than it was at 21. It was different aches and pains and timing. And even after all that work to overcome everything, I had another completely different level to get to just to get into basketball shape.

But just overall, it was about being smarter with my health. It was just about spending more time with my family, appreciating different things and seeing different things that I hadn't necessarily seen before. That's probably the most important thing.

Does it make sense at all that, as you mentioned, the process of rechanneling your priorities and perspective on life in general somehow unlocked you to become a more productive player in Miami?

Bosh: It's seems strange, doesn't it, when you think about it like that? I got to see that I've got this unique gift to play the game, and that I realized again that, yeah, this is my dream that I've accomplished with the help of a lot of different people. To be in this situation is a blessing. And I shouldn't waste any time with doubt, with pity or with any other negative emotion you can think of. Even if I'm hurt or sore or tired, these are feelings that other people don't get to experience. You realize how fortunate you are.

How fitting is it that after all you've endured, it all sort of comes back full circle with you going to Toronto in the midst of one of your most productive seasons, statistically, since you joined the Heat? You've repeatedly joked about how you're always booed there. But do you think there's an appreciation there?

Bosh: Deep down inside, yeah (laughs). I left for the opportunity to come here and try to win championships in Miami. And we've won two and went to the Finals four years in a row. And we've spent the past two years trying to get back to that level again, to those feelings. That's a process. Me as a player, getting back to that level of being an All-Star is a daily struggle every year. Consistency is key. I've always talked about that. That's been my mantra ever since I came into the league.

The older guys always told me that a lot of guys have been an All-Star once. But you want to try to do is to keep that distinction, maintain that level where it's not as much something that you accomplish once or twice, but something that you are every year as a player. And 13 years in, it's been great.

You've moved on from Toronto in 2010 and have become a two-time NBA champion. The Raptors have recovered from the transition and have the second-best record in the East coming off consecutive playoff appearances. Even as a competitor, is part of you happy that both sides have thrived in a way?

Bosh: Absolutely. Yeah, of course. It's worked out eventually for everybody. I don't think DeMar [DeRozan] would have been able to flourish the way he's flourishing right now if I hadn't have left. So, it works out for everybody. But even in the grand scheme of things, I go around and people there still remember me like, "I watched you play in Toronto, man. I remember this and that." And I always think that's pretty cool, because people have memories of me playing in Toronto.

There are times when you're so caught up in the moment that you don't really think that anybody's watching. But people remember what we tried to do there. We got to the playoffs a couple of times but couldn't take the next step. They have those opportunities to do those things now, and it keeps going.

You've made 81 3-pointers through 53 games this season, which are already the most of any season in your career. On Saturday, you'll be competing in the 3-point shootout. How much have you practiced for the competition in a stacked field?

Bosh: I haven't yet. Maybe in the next couple of days -- if my kids let me. I practiced in my mind a couple of times, but I haven't made it out of the first rack yet (laughs).

Are you nervous about being the biggest underdog among a group that includes prolific 3-point shooters in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden?

Bosh: I don't feel the thing in my gut. It's been a while. I'm sure once everything gets started, then maybe. But it takes a lot more to make me nervous. I've been through so many life situations that the thing in your gut, it takes more and more and more. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be a lot of fun.

What's your strategy if you get off to a slow start?

Bosh: Just shoot the next one, man. That's how I think about basketball in general. As a shooter, you can't really worry about it. The minute you start to worrying -- and this is just me talking, because I don't know, I haven't experienced [the competition] -- the minute you start pressing, that's not a good thing. I don't have anything to lose. Nobody expects me to win, so I can just throw hook shots up there, and I don't think anyone will think it'll be a big deal.

Does the fact that you were even invited speak to your rapid development as a shooter?

Bosh: Just looking back at my career and seeing how things have evolved and changed, it's showed me how you can always pick up new skills, learn new things -- even things you think you know. I'm pretty much a totally different player than I was a couple of years ago. I didn't even shoot 3s. So to be doing something totally different and to actually be in a contest for it is pretty cool. And it's taught me about growth. It's taught me to always keep my mind open to new ideas and things like that. Or, I'm just going to the 3-point contest. I don't know which one it is. I might just be reading too much into it.

You spent seven years in Toronto, so that essentially qualifies you to be a host of sorts for other players. What are some of your favorite spots from back in the day that would be on the agenda to hang out this weekend?

Bosh: I got used to hanging out, even in the winter time up there. I had a couple of friends with apartments up there where we hung out. But it was really just hanging at my house. You know, that's the only place in Toronto that I can say [on the record] where I hung out. But there are some places in Toronto, man. Yeah. You know what I mean (laughs)? Guys know about Toronto. But those other places, where I wasn't necessarily thinking about basketball, I don't go those places anymore now.

It's different now. But, yeah, I'll always appreciate my time in Toronto. It was good times. That's the place where it all started for me. After everything that happened -- and you try not to think about it like that too much -- but I'm just glad I have a chance to get back to this level to do all of this again.