Meet Chris Bosh's posse. Her name is Adriene Mayes. She's his cousin from Detroit, and she recently earned a master's degree in engineering from Murray State. They live together in a condo in downtown Toronto. A serious-minded 24-year-old who runs Bosh's eponymous foundation to promote education and physical fitness among local youths, Mayes does most of the cooking, most of the bookkeeping and all of the housecleaning. They watch a lot of sports on TV, take turns driving each other around and get along famously.
Meet Chris Bosh's ride. It's a black Chevy Avalanche that cost him "about $50,000," a tiny percentage of the $9.3 million he is scheduled to be paid by the Toronto Raptors over the next three years. "People ask me, 'What'd you buy that for?' " says Bosh. "Look, I always told myself that's what I wanted to buy. So that's what I bought."
Meet 6'10" Chris Bosh, one year removed from Georgia Tech and the fourth pick in the 2003 NBA draft, which means he's the answer to a future trivia question: Who was selected right after LeBron James, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony? The 19-year-old Bosh took algebra, trig and calculus in high school, thought about majoring in engineering at Tech and draws raves from veteran Raptors—focused, intelligent and composed being the most common—that make him sound as if he's been around long enough to have used a slide rule.
He can also play a little, which is one of he reasons that the Raptors, who made a blockbuster trade on Dec. 1 with the Chicago Bulls, seem to have turned around a season that was going nowhere fast. Bosh can surely do the math. Not long ago the Raptors had trouble scoring 70 points; now they routinely put up 100. Not long ago they were one of the worst teams in the league; at week's end they were 13-10 and in the thick of the weak Eastern Conference race. And not long ago Bosh was a nonfactor in the Rookie of the Year equation; now his productivity (11.5 points on 47.6% shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 1.61 blocks through Sunday) rates him at least a mention with one-name wonders LeBron and Carmelo. "Am I surprised at how well I'm doing?" says Bosh, turning the question over in his mind, as if performing a calculation. "To be honest, yes, I am."
Nobody, however, should start planning parade routes through Toronto. The Raptors won their first six games after the trade, but dropped their next two, including a disheartening 90-89 defeat at home on Sunday to the lowly Miami Heat. But like Bosh, the Raptors have sneaked up on the league.
Most observers knew they would be different after swapping size and rebounding (center Antonio Davis and forward Jerome Williams) for shooting and flash (swing-man Jalen Rose and forward Donyell Marshall) but not necessarily better. Early returns on the deal, though, give a huge advantage to Toronto (page 60), which has gone from virtually unwatchable to downright entertaining. Though the 6'9" Marshall can't guard a barber pole, he's averaged 13.3 points and 7.9 rebounds over his last seven seasons with hardly any notice. As a Raptor he had racked up 22.0 points per game and 8.1 boards through Sunday, and his three-point shooting had opened up the court for Carter and Rose. Toronto has gotten additional help in the trenches from the undersized (6'6") but sturdy (265 pounds) Lonny Baxter, the final element in the deal, which also sent forward Chris Jefferies to Chicago.
Before deciding to acquire the combustible 6'8" Rose, Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald called Isiah Thomas, his former teammate (at Indiana) and boss (in Toronto). Thomas had coached Rose on the Indiana Pacers for 1� seasons, and there were rumors of friction between them. "No matter what passed between them, Isiah told me he would love the chance to coach Jalen again," says Grunwald. "The only reason [the Pacers] dealt him was that they needed a big man."
Thrilled to be back at point guard—he rarely fails to mention his idol, Magic Johnson, in any basketball conversation—Rose has meshed with Toronto's resident star, Vince Carter. "If we have a play at the end of the game, it'll probably be drawn up for Vince, and I'm fine with that," says Rose. Then he smiles. "But the second option better be for me." He's also happy to be only 3� hours from his native Detroit, in a city where many fondly recall his Fab Five days. "For a lot of fans in Toronto, the University of Michigan is a home team," says Rose. "I'm back playing the position I want to be playing, and all I want to do is make this team better."
The newly overhauled Raptors have benefited from the maturity of Rose and from that shown by their thin, young rookie. "We can't put enough on this kid," says first-year coach Kevin O'Neill. Though Bosh is built like a small forward, he is holding his own at centre (that's how they spell it north of the border); in his first seven starts after the trade he averaged 13.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. "Chris is slow to react, and I mean that as a compliment," says veteran Raptors forward Michael Curry. "He doesn't play the game at a hundred miles an hour like a lot of young guys, so his mistakes are limited. And when he makes one, he's not lost for the whole game. I call that being well-grounded."
That reflects his upbringing in south Dallas. His parents, Noel, a plumbing engineer, and Freida, a computer systems analyst, valued education. "Schoolwork came kind of natural to me, but when I brought home a grade that wasn't up to par, my parents let me know it," says Bosh, a member of the National Honor Society who led Lincoln High to a 40-0 mark and the Class 4A title as a senior. He never thought about being what he calls "a one-year-and-out guy" at Georgia Tech, but the buzz built quickly after he averaged 15.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks and was named ACC Rookie of the Year.