One of my favourite expressions is “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”

Former Raptors power forward Chris Bosh could prove an exception to that rule.

According to Raps GM Bryan Colangelo, Bosh “checked out” at the end of last season, costing the team a postseason berth. He subsequently joined high-profile free agents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with Miami, instantly making the Heat the favourites to win this year’s NBA title.

“Whether he was mentally checked out or just wasn’t quite into it down the stretch, he wasn’t the same guy,” Colangelo told The Fan 590 last week. “I think everybody saw that, but no one wanted to acknowledge it.”

So, did Bosh actually quit on his team and eventually the franchise?

He averaged about 22 points and nine rebounds in March, and in two healthy games in April, he had a 28-point, 12-rebound game and a monster 42-point, 13-rebound performance.

So statistically, Bosh was there.

He suffered two injuries following the All-Star break, which ultimately were the undoing of the team. In the same interview, Colangelo said Bosh took an inordinate amount of time to heal an ankle injury that should have required only a few days off.

“Despite limited swelling and any excessive damage on an MRI, he felt like he needed to sit,” Colangelo said. “I’m not even questioning Chris’s injury. I’m telling you he was cleared to play subject to tolerance on his part and tolerance just apparently wasn’t there and he chose not to play.”

And with five games left in the season and the Raps clinging to the eighth playoff spot, Bosh was on the receiving end of an Antawn Jamison elbow, costing him the rest of the campaign and Toronto the final berth.

Anyone who watched this year’s playoffs knows that when the stakes are highest, star players put aside the pain. Steve Nash eliminated the San Antonio Spurs after receiving six stitches under his right eye, which swelled up like an eight ball. In the next round against the L.A. Lakers, Nash’s nose was broken. Without even a timeout, Nash snapped his nose back in place and capped the Suns’ win with 17 points and 15 assists in 38 minutes. He had surgery after the game but didn’t miss Game 4.

So … maybe that proves Bosh is a little soft, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he quit on the team.

It was no secret that Bosh, Wade and James coordinated their free agency to create an unprecedented buyer’s market in the summer of 2010. And it’s no secret that the three met during the All-Star break to discuss strategy. So regardless what happened during the rest of the season, it was inconsequential to their potential windfall in the off-season, and it’s possible that it was enough of a distraction for Bosh to keep him from focusing on getting the Raptors into the playoffs. In Cleveland’s last game, James looked disinterested and it was obviously symbolic when he stripped off his jersey in the hallway after the loss that it would be the last time he’d wear a Cavaliers jersey.

Bosh was not invested in the Raptors’ success past the All-Star break – he was more interested in his own success after the season ended. So he had no reason to rush back after an injury. And he had no reason to play the role of the franchise player, raising his game and rallying his teammates to fight their way into the playoffs and orchestrate a first-round upset. He had a big payday coming one way or another. As long as he put up good numbers when he did play, his personal stock stayed high, so it was all good, right?

In defence of Colangelo’s comments, Bosh said: “I play this game as hard as I can every time I step on the court. On the back of my jersey it says ‘Bosh’ … the Boshes are hard workers. We have a lot of pride in what we do, in our jobs and in life.”

What Bosh doesn’t realize is that it’s the name on the front of the jersey, not the back, that should be most important to an athlete, and ultimately determines if he actually is a franchise player. Bosh was never a true franchise player – he never lifted the Raptors beyond the first round of the playoffs – and that’s why he will be the third option on the Heat this year instead of the star attraction on his own team.

Because regardless of whether he quit or not, he’s already proven that he isn’t a winner.

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