MIAMI — Chris Bosh stood before a backdrop filled with logos that advertised the NBA finals, delighted to be so close to his first championship ring.
“You know the situation, because they put ‘The Finals’ everywhere,” Bosh said with a chuckle.
Bosh joined the Miami Heat last summer because he wanted to play on a team with a serious shot at a title. In his seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors, they reached the playoffs only twice and lost in the first round both times.
Now he’s in the “The Finals” against Dallas.
“I’m noticing how the level of play changes,” Bosh said. “I’m trying to be the best I can be, elevating my game and intensity and becoming a better player.”
Bosh has indeed risen to the occasion. Going into Game 2 on Thursday night, he was averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs. More important, the Heat were 13-3.
“You see what basketball in this league is about, getting a taste of a championship run, getting every team’s best, competing on such a high level and in a dogfight every time you’re on the court,” Bosh said. “It brings a lot of emotions out of you.”
A Dallas native, Bosh said he has turned off his cell phone and will limit time with family when the series moves to Texas for Game 3 on Sunday.
“He’s able to compartmentalize things,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He keeps things on 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. He’s one of the more competitive players I’ve ever been around.”
SHAQ FANS: Mavericks center Brendan Haywood was always a fan of Shaquille O’Neal, and not just because the 15-time All-Star center once offered him a loan.
“I remember meeting him on the elevator my rookie year and he asked me, ‘Are you good? Is your family good? Do you need any money?'” Haywood said. “I was like, ‘No, I’m good Shaq, but thanks for offering.'”
The Mavs’ Dirk Nowitzki also admired O’Neal for his personality.
“Over the years, being in the same locker room in the All-Star games, he’s one of the funniest characters this league has ever seen,” Nowitzki said. “He always had something funny to say, always made you smile, made you laugh.”
O’Neal announced his retirement Wednesday.
LIKING LEBRON: LeBron James may have lost some fans last summer when he left Cleveland for Miami. He’s making up for that now, especially in the social media sense.
James had the No. 1 selling jersey in the NBA this season, and he’s been getting some new fans in the postseason as well. His Facebook page had 5.8 million fans at the end of the regular season, and as of 7 p.m. Thursday, 7,009,808 people had clicked “like” on his Facebook page.
That’s more than the populations of 38 U.S. states. And according to PageData, which tracks the metrics of Facebook popularity, James has one of the top 200 pages in the social media world.
EYE ON THE OTHER FINALS: The NHL is playing its championship round, and Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki is pulling for the Vancouver Canucks over the Boston Bruins.
Nowitzki even had a video message wishing the team good luck that was played during the first intermission of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night. He’s pulling for them in part because defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is a fellow German.
“I never even met him, but obviously I’m aware of his German background,” Nowitzki said. “He had a great game yesterday and they won Game 1 and I watched it. They found a way to win.”
Nowitzki was told that the Bruins have a German defenseman, too — Dennis Seidenberg.
“Oh yeah?” Nowitzki said.
Asked if he might send Seidenberg a message, Nowitzki laughed and said no.
HOWARD’S ROLE: Juwan Howard waited 6,180 days to play in a finals game. The Heat hope it was worth it.
Howard was drafted in 1994 and has made the NBA’s title round for the first time. He’s in his 17th season, which is why teammates have been known to yell “17!” when he does something well.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Howard has been a key all season, even if he plays sparingly.
“He has been invaluable to this group because of his veteran experience, his leadership,” Spoelstra said. “The guys respect him. And they did from the very first day of training camp.”
FINAL GAME 1 NUMBERS: ESPN and ABC released the final viewing numbers for Game 1, and as the overnight ratings released Wednesday suggested, it was a ratings hit.
Game 1 of the Dallas-Miami series was watched in 10,475,000 households and drew 15,171,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. It was Tuesday night’s highest-rated program and drew more than 1 million more viewers than Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers series last year.
FACEBOOK FIGURES: A social media engagement and management company says the Heat have more Facebook fans, but the Mavericks’ Facebook fans are more active.
The company’s data show the Heat with 2.9 million fans, with 159,491 or 5.5 percent active. The Mavs have 659,743 fans, with 74,621 or 11.3 percent active.
The analysis, done by the company FanGager, is based on the overall percentage of fans who post comments and participate in activities at the social network.
McINTYRE HONORED: NBA executive Brian McIntyre, who is in his 33rd season in the league office, has been selected to receive the 2011 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The award is the most prestigious award presented by the Hall aside from enshrinement. McIntyre is now senior communications adviser to commissioner David Stern.
AP Sports Writers Jaime Aron and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.