For Chris Bosh, the adventure has come to an end.
For the majority of July, Bosh and his family were on a vacation that saw them go to places like Dubai and Sri Lanka, as well as taking part in a basketball clinic in Ghana. He and his wife chronicled their trip on social media, all the while NBA free agency had taken numerous twists. Heat fans were on an emotional roller-coaster, as word surfaced of LeBron James flirting with going back to Cleveland, or rumors of Houston courting Bosh with a max offer had Twitter ablaze in activity. As all that was happening, Bosh was riding a camel.
Now the adventure is over. Bosh has come home and officially signed his five year, $118 million contract to stay with the Miami Heat. During a teleconference with writers on Wednesday, Pat Riley made it clear that he wouldn’t let Bosh leave Miami. He trumped the Rockets offer by giving Bosh a fifth year, and an additional $30 million dollars. This will keep Bosh with the Heat until he’s 35.
And will put a target on his chest.
For Chris Bosh, what else is new?
Upon his arrival in Miami, Bosh has been under a microscope, from both fans and media alike. In his last five seasons in Toronto, he averaged 22.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Needless to say, expectations were high.
The reality was that Bosh had to sacrifice statistics for team success. That’s something that fans don’t see; they see what he wasn’t doing. His numbers in Miami dipped to 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, and he seemed to drift further and further from the basket.
Criticism came down hardest on him. He was the guy that wasn’t earning is near-max contract. He was the member of the Big Three that should be traded. Or even amnestied. I remember driving home from work back in December of 2010, when I was listening to a caller on the radio suggest that the Heat should trade Bosh for Amar’e Stoudemire. I almost lost control of my car.
What Bosh brought to the Heat just wasn’t enough for a segment of the fans and media. If the Heat didn’t win, LeBron or Dwyane Wade wouldn’t be the ones to get the blame; it was always going to be Bosh’s fault. He became the subject of jokes and internet memes. Noted ESPN blowhard Skip Bayless would even called him “Bosh Spice” on national televison.
Erik Spoelstra would come out and say that Bosh has always been the Heat’s most important player. What he did do exceptionally well was opened the lane for LeBron and Wade to attack the paint, since he was such a threat shooting from outside the paint. He’s a terror for teams running pick and rolls, as Bosh’s quickness and length allows him to switch off to hedge on a ball handler, while still being able to get back to his original guarding assignment. Those are things that don’t show up on a stat sheet.
Case in point: over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen praise being heaped on Wade. He’s been with the Heat since his rookie season, sacrificed his status as Miami’s go-to player when LeBron arrived, and he’s taken less money to help the team improve. He’s officially reached “Dan Marino” status for Heat fans. He’s essentially Teflon. If Wade struggles, it’s because he’s battling nagging injuries or that he’s 32 years old. He’s already given this team everything he can, so it’s understandable if he’s running on fumes.
But Bosh? He’s now the Heat’s highest paid player, as well as their top scoring option. You think the pressure will be any less? He’s going to be the guy that replaces LeBron’s role as the alpha dog. That spotlight will shine on him if the Heat stumble out of the gate. He’s going to be looked as the guy that has to be that player he was with the Raptors. He’ll be criticized that he was only loyal to the Heat because they offered him a max-contract. What happened to that alleged 5 year, $90 million deal that Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick was talking about? So LeBron leaves, therefore Bosh is no longer opened to a hometown discount. Critics will have 118 million reasons to complain about him.
Look, I’m not here to dismiss Wade and prop Bosh up as the savior of the franchise. I’m as huge a fan of Dwyane Wade as the next guy. I still think he was robbed of the 2009 NBA MVP award. There are three frames on my walls: an Orange Bowl seat, a Marino jersey, and a Wade Finals MVP picture. Those are mementos of the three most revered things in South Florida sports history. I’m glad Wade took less money to stay in Miami.
But this is Bosh’s team, and he’s going to have to earn it every penny coming his way. He won’t have the luxury of LeBron going “Game Genie” against an opponent. This team will win or lose games because of what Bosh does or doesn’t do. He’s going to need to have a bigger presence on the glass, since the Heat lack a true center, and were last in rebounding in each of the past two season. Yes, Wade or even Luol Deng will have big moments, yet what Bosh does over the course of a game will set the tone for how the Heat will approach this upcoming season.
I’ve always been one of those standing up for the good Bosh brings to the Heat; those things that don’t show up on a stat sheet. He’s the guy I want shooting the ball with the game on the line, like those times LeBron passed up the taking big shots made the smart basketball play and found Bosh for open looks. Or maybe you forget that Bosh had the biggest rebound in Heat history, when he corralled the ball, then found Ray Allen for The Shot.
No, Bosh didn’t sacrifice money to help the Heat. But for four years, he sacrificed his game, stats, and stature in the league, all for the greater good. He was rewarded – both in championships and financially – and he certainly deserves it. This his chance to re-write his legacy; his chance to prove he belongs in the elite. Pride can be a great motivator, and Bosh will have a lot of doubters to prove wrong.
The Miami Heat are now his team. That other guy ditched him; now Bosh takes his shot at taking him down.
For Chris Bosh, the adventure is about to begin.