MIAMI — Eventually, someone was going to have to embrace the supporting role in Miami, and it wasn’t going to be LeBron James. So that left Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to play sidekick to the best player in the game.
Wade was the incumbent star for the Heat, already an NBA champion and set to have his number retired whenever he stops playing. Wade is Miami’s first homegrown basketball superstar, and was in his prime when James and Bosh arrived in July 2010.
That left Bosh to be the third option of the Big Three, and there are those basketball observers who have never forgiven Bosh for accepting that lower role without much resistance or for giving up an opportunity to turn Toronto into an Eastern Conference power and heading for Miami when his contract expired.
Despite his 11 years in the NBA, two titles, and seven All-Star selections, there remains a level of uncertainty about Bosh and his legacy. Is he a Hall of Famer? Will he be remembered as one of the best stretch fours in league history? Or is he merely the beneficiary of great teammates in Miami, which allows him rarely to see a double team and the luxury of being wide open in the corner, such as in the pivotal play in Sunday’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals against San Antonio?
Bosh is definitely underappreciated. He is not as dominant or imposing as James or as graceful as Wade. He lacks the star power of James and charisma of Wade. He is sometimes socially awkward, as evidenced by his attempts to video-bomb postgame interviews.
He was tabbed a franchise player in Toronto but never embraced that role. He knew he wouldn’t get much help from top-rate free agents if he stayed there so he accepted the chance to head to Miami and play third fiddle. That means regardless of how much he accomplishes for the Heat, James and Wade will receive the bigger shares of the credit.
That pivotal shot in Game 2 is a perfect example. While Bosh drained the clutch 3-pointer with 1:18 left to give the Heat the lead for good over San Antonio, James was credited for making the right basketball play, leaving Bosh with the simple assignment of hitting an open shot.
Yet, the 3-pointer is a facet of Bosh’s game that he has worked feverishly to improve over the years.
He converted a career-best 74 treys this past season, forcing teams to respect him from beyond the arc. He made just six 3-pointers in his first season in Miami, but he won’t get the credit for that development, simply because he lives in the shadow of James and Wade.
“I think validating yourself is a constant process,” he said following the Game 2 victory, which left the series tied, 1-1. “I really let that go a long time ago. I don’t care about those things. I just care about the game. I focus on the game and what we’re supposed to do with it. We have a chance to compete for another championship. That’s all that matters to me right now.”
He doesn’t get as much criticism as James for a variety of reasons, most notable James’s decision to bolt Cleveland that made him a pariah in some circles. Bosh quietly left Toronto, announcing on a sports show along with Wade (a free agent at the time) that they had decided to team up and sign with the Heat and were awaiting word from James.
Then “The Decision” came and Bosh became a mere footnote in the whole Miami story. And he has been overlooked and disregarded, though he can score in the paint and is a capable enough rebounder, especially offensively.
Bosh doesn’t always display passion, and too often concedes scoring responsibility to James and Wade, but Bosh is a gifted player who will likely be more appreciated after his career. That’s when the reflections will begin of the greatness of the Miami championship teams and the plays Bosh made, such as in Game 2, and he’ll be remembered as a pivotal part of Miami’s dynasty.
“I don’t really care about criticism. If it doesn’t help me, then I don’t listen to it,” he said. “Throughout my career, it’s changed, ever since I’ve gotten here, but you just have to put that behind you. Everybody gets criticized, and I understand that. I’m not immune to it. To know that that’s happened before, I’m not the first, I won’t be the last. This team won’t be the first or the last. Each guy gets picked on.
“But I think it makes you stronger as a person and I believe in my craft. I work hard at my game and that’s all that matters.”Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.