Culture of Hoops

Miami Heat Act Nobly in Chris Bosh Saga

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr

Chris Bosh will be forever the George Harrison of the Miami Heat. During the Big 3 Era, it was Bosh doing the dirty work and reinventing his game which allowed the Heat to maintain their run of excellence including two NBA titles.

Perhaps the best example of Bosh’s game is the Ray Allen shot in Game 6. LeBron James missed the game tying shot – because that’s what LeBron does in clutch situations – Bosh grabbed the rebound and got the ball chest high in Allen’s sweet spot for the shot. No one remembers that critical part of Game 6.

Just like Harrison’s subtle contributions to the Beatles, Bosh’s can be found in becoming a three-point threat, defensive keystone, and his quiet nightly proficiency handling the best big man on the opposing team. LeBron and Dwyane Wade played the roles of John and Paul respectively with Chalmers of course acting as Ringo.

The magic of Miami was the position-less model of basketball developed throughout the Big 3 era. Bosh’s choice to sublimate his game allowed the Heat to embark upon one of basketball’s most intriguing eras. During Bosh’s last season he was invited to the Three Point Contest – something unthinkable during his time in Toronto.

The Hall of Fame status for Bosh is fairly secure. Aside from his last two seasons, he was a mortal lock to be on the court. Only one season besides the last two did he play less than 70 games. His similarity scores compare with Horace Grant, Dominique Wilkins, and even John Havlicek. His Hall of Fame percentage on Basketball Reference is listed at 99.5%. But Bosh never sought the spotlight much like the Quiet Beatle.

Bosh’s work in the community and public persona is a stark contrast from the modern athlete. He is a voracious reader, skilled speaker, and a man lending his time to important causes. His real estate portfolio according to the Miami New Times is one of the most lucrative amongst all athletes. By all accounts, basketball is a small part of Bosh’s life. Yet it is completely unfair that he’s being forced to part with his role in a game that’s the vehicle to the lifestyle he enjoys.

Today, it is completely fair to say Chris Bosh has probably played his last NBA game. Pat Riley confirmed the physical’s findings and reiterated the Heat’s sole concern was Bosh’s health. Having a career ended by forces beyond your control while feeling perfectly healthy must be disconcerting to Bosh. He is a thoughtful, proud man. The gap between how he feels and what the examination revealed must be disconcerting, frustrating, and ultimately dispiriting.

While Riley indicated that Bosh may be able to play with another team down the road, his clarity ruling out Bosh’s participation with the Heat was unusual. The Heat don’t operate with great transparency, so the starkness of today’s announcement punctuated a summer of uncertainty. The end of Bosh’s playing career in Miami is sad, but it is for the best.

The tension during last season’s playoff run and the Heat’s summer was due to Bosh not believing the Heat were acting in the interest of his health according to numerous reports. Because Bosh won’t play for the Heat a large amount of cap relief comes their way next season, allowing Riley to exploit the inflated salary cap. It’s completely cynical – and realistic – to imagine teams playing Bosh despite his condition.

Rare is it to have a player acting against their own self-interest and the team protecting the player from himself. That’s the case in Miami. The Heat preach the mantra of family. Taking care of each other is central to Miami’s identity. Yet the defections of Wade and LeBron call this philosophy into question. Neither outright said the family mantra is a shill, but the conduct of the organization relating to Bosh’s condition is beyond reproach.

Please understand I rarely take up for management against labor. In our capitalistic society, labor is the most replaceable part of a firm. Fast food restaurants testify to labor’s lack of importance – those employees sadly are interchangeable parts because the restaurants are almost entirely automated. In America, we lionize the “job creators” and eschew the labor. This is why sports fans turn on players who demand more money. It’s why fans side with billionaires against millionaires. It’s not about the person, but the laundry.

The billionaires know this and exploit this. Look at how little venom Cleveland fans sent Dan Gilbert’s way after The Decision. This is just the first of many examples.

Back to Bosh – the Heat operated differently. Micky Arison rooted for Bosh via twitter. Riley stated the team’s goal was having Bosh ready to play. The Heat even allowed Bosh’s personal medical team to work collaboratively with the team’s doctors. This never happens. That’s how valued Bosh is. That’s why the Heat’s mantra of family is real.

Sadly, being family means sometimes telling those you love the things they don’t want to hear. Bosh stated after the physical results were released that he still intends to come back. Riley today ended the Heat’s participation in a second return from blood clots. Playing on blood thinners is not reasonable and could result in Bosh’s death. So could cycling off blood thinners by attempting to play.

This is the best decision by the Heat. Reggie Lewis died while at an offseason practice in 1995. The Celtics saw him pass out during a game prior to his death. Though the Celtics did not act with neglect or malice towards Lewis, perhaps if they refused to let Lewis play he would still be around. There’s no way to know if that would be the case.

One thing we do know: because the Heat won’t let Bosh play, they have probably saved his life. Bosh is great on television, he’s a bon vivant, and a genuinely great role model for people of all ages.

Thanks to Miami’s decision, Chris Bosh will not be a symbol of what could have been. Instead, if he symbolizes anything, it would be that sports are not always a cut throat business. Sometimes, good people will do the right thing even if it means suffering in the short term. The Heat will suffer this season without Bosh on the court.

But the Heat ensured no one will suffer because they let Bosh take the court.

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