TORONTO - Toronto Raptors star Chris Bosh says he loves his infant daughter and will "take care of my responsibilities" amid reports his former girlfriend is seeking child support and sole custody of the four-month-old.
"All I can say is I'm willing to take care of my responsibilities like I've been doing in the past and in the future and have respect for everyone," Bosh told reporters Tuesday. "I love my daughter, I love myself and I respect her mother."
Bosh, who celebrated his 25th birthday Tuesday, said he has visited his daughter since her birth in November. But he wouldn't discuss what role he plans on having in the child's life.
"I hope everybody respects my wishes to keep it quiet," he said.
A Toronto newspaper reported Tuesday that Bosh is facing a lawsuit in Maryland from Allison Mathis, who says she lived with him until Bosh ended their relationship while she was seven months pregnant.
Mathis alleges Bosh - who is making US$14.4 million this season - stopped supporting her financially and tried to have her removed from their home. According to the court papers, Mathis claims the couple had planned on getting married and chose to have a child together, with Bosh reportedly paying for a fertility drug to hasten the process.
Citing the court documents, the report says Bosh, upon returning from last summer's Beijing Olympics after helping the U.S. win gold, told Mathis he wanted to "move on" from their relationship.
News of the lawsuit drew interest at Tuesday's practice. There were six television cameras - roughly three times the norm - on hand as well as numerous print and radio reporters.
The six-foot-10, 230-pound Bosh is the face of the Raptors' franchise. On the court, he's the club's best player, a four-time NBA all-star who is averaging a team-high 22.7 points per game.
Off the court, Bosh is very active in the community, having established the Chris Bosh Foundation to help promote sports and education with youth in both Toronto as well as his home town of Dallas. Bosh also regularly speaks to kids about the benefits of reading.
The former Georgia Tech star says he has nothing to prove to those people who know him best
"People closest to me don't call it into question," he said. "They know the situation, they know what it is, that's all that really matters.
"I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing. I think people know me and (those people) know what I represent and know how I am. As long as they don't call it into question, that's all that matters."
Teammate Shawn Marion, who admitted to only learning of the lawsuit Tuesday, said he fully supports Bosh and that his teammate could find solace on the basketball court.
"This is a good time to take all the things that are going on outside or off the court and leave them there and focus on basketball and on that ball," Marion said.
Raptors coach Jay Triano knew of Bosh's off-court issues during training camp and says they haven't impacted negatively on Bosh's play.
"Everyone has their own personal issues whether you're a professional athlete or a regular citizen," Triano said. "I can't say anything other than the fact that Chris Bosh has been very professional and come to practice every single day and tried to help us win basketball games."
Triano added that often it's tough for pro athletes to continue playing at a high level when they have off-field issues to deal with.
"I think it's a little bit more difficult sometimes for professional athletes because they're in the spotlight," he said. "Different situations happen to different people all throughout life, whether you're a reporter, a basketball coach or a basketball player.
"Sometimes it just get magnified because of who you are but we all have our different issues. Like I said, though, Chris has been extremely professional in his approach to the game."
NOTES: The Raptors announced Tuesday guard Marcus Banks was to undergo season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur on his right big toe. To replace him, Toronto signed guard Quincy Douby to a 10-day contract . . . Forward Andrea Bargnani practised again Tuesday after missing Sunday's win over the L.A. Clippers with a sore heel. Triano said if Bargnani remains symptom-free Wednesday, he expects seven-foot, 250-pound centre-forward to play against Milwaukee later that night.