The first time Chris Bosh returned to Dallas as an NBA player in 2003, he needed 175 tickets for family and friends. He won't get anywhere near that many on this trip home.
"You don't get your hands on extra tickets," Bosh said. "The ticket thing, man, it's something else."
Especially now, in the NBA finals. Bosh and the Miami Heat arrived in Dallas on Friday to begin prepping for Sunday's Game 3 of the finals, a series that's knotted at a game apiece with the next three games all to be played on the Mavericks' home floor -- meaning Miami will need a road win to keep its title hopes alive.
And to Bosh, that's all that matters.
He was a high school star in Dallas, led a team to a 40-0 record and a state title, but the jolt of energy that accompanied returning to his hometown as an opponent began to dim a long time ago. It's almost just like another stop on the NBA schedule now, and given the stakes the Heat and Mavs are playing for, Bosh doesn't see anything wrong with that way of thinking.
"My family and I have had conversations about the difference of the regular season and now," Bosh said. "The thrill of playing at home is gone. I just concentrate on trying to win games. I've been there a bunch of times, played in that arena my fair share of times. I go back all the time. Nothing's changed, it looks the same, the people are the same. That's why the thrill is kind of gone. As you get older, it becomes more of a task."
Nothing compares to the task that awaits Bosh and the Heat now.
Dallas fans are still smarting from seeing the Heat celebrate the 2006 NBA title on their floor, and there's nothing the Mavs would enjoy more than wrapping up this series and hoisting their first championship trophy on Thursday night. Dallas outscored Miami 22-5 to close Game 2, a stunning rally that rescued the Mavs from a 15-point hole and carried them to a 95-93 win.
Bosh is averaging 15.5 points so far in the finals, but his shooting has been atrocious, 9 for 34. Maybe a trip home will provide a boost after all, even though Bosh has steadfastly said he will not let Dallas become a Texas-sized distraction.
"He's had that all year long," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's a very intelligent, mature player and person. He's able to compartmentalize things in his life and in his profession. He keeps an even keel, but don't mistake that for a lack of competitiveness. He has a burning fire inside of him. It took me a little bit by surprise. We did a lot of research about him, but he's one of the more competitive players I've ever been around. And once you get to coach him, you realize that pretty quickly."
It might be harder for Bosh to have the just-another-game approach had he been a Mavericks fan growing up.
LeBron James will forever be tied to Cleveland, Dwyane Wade grew up rooting for his hometown Chicago Bulls, and trips to those cities will be emotional for those two Bosh teammates throughout the remainder of their careers. With Bosh, that doesn't seem to be the case. Truth be told, he hardly followed the Mavs as a kid, focusing more on individual players instead.
"They struggled," Bosh said. "They struggled for a number of years and they always tried different formulas. They always went to the drawing board and when things didn't work they just kept trying, kept trying, kept trying until about 10, 12 years ago they really started to turn the curve."
When Bosh played his first NBA game there with Toronto on Dec. 15, 2003, he was nervous. He missed a dunk in the first minute before settling down, and got a bit embarrassed by a video montage that played in the arena that night.
"I was 19. I was a year removed from home," Bosh said. "It was my first NBA game at home. They played a little tribute. It was nice. We lost. And we went home. That was about it. Going home's always exciting for a while, but you get used to things and you just do your job. Home is the hotel room."
He acknowledged there are "pros and cons" to playing in Dallas, though he was hard-pressed to actually identify anything.
"The pros is just being in the finals," Bosh said. "That's enough for me."