Chris Bosh once said that you don’t really know the sacrifices you’re making until you actually make them. When the big three first came together in Miami, rising up from the ground amid smoke, lasers, and an affirming crowd, it seemed as if the difficult part of the journey was over. But through the hardships of that first year, and even through the successes thereafter, Chris Bosh came to learn just how much he gave up for the sake of contention.
While LeBron and Wade made similar financial sacrifices, neither has had to relinquish either their stats or their perceptions as elite players to the extent that Bosh has. His numbers across the board have been on a steep decline from his days in Toronto, and his role on offense has been marginalized without its burden being any lessened.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Bosh said of his new normal in Miami. “It’s been a long time, this role that I’m in now is difficult enough for me so it’s never a dull moment.”
Playing out of position and battling down low with the Roy Hibberts and Tim Duncans of the world has only fed the “soft” narrative that was always there in Toronto, but on a periphery that no longer exists with the Heat. Bosh’s reflective nature has stood in stark contrast to the bombast of Miami, and the mocking reaction to some of his more awkward antics have often taken a turn for the cruel.
Yet, as his recent performances against the Lakers and the Spurs proved, Bosh remains among an elite class of players. In the best power forward debate that tends to revolve around Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin, Bosh’s defense and versatility sets him apart from the crowd. His range, size, and athleticism is an utterly unique amalgam of skills otherwise unseen in the league today.
In truth, apart from LeBron, Bosh may be the Heat’s most irreplaceable player. Wade is certainly one of a kind but his sheer production could be somewhat replicated by a committee, like how the Thunder are compensating for the absence of Harden. But Bosh’s style of play cannot be replicated; he alone is the key that unlocks Miami’s revolutionary five-out style of play. There is no other player in the league who can stretch the floor, soak up competent minutes at center, and still play the necessary hedge-and-recover style of pick and roll defense like Bosh can.
Expectations are everything, and the Miami Heat are judged on a harsh curve that doesn’t often reward success outside of championships. But as LeBron garners accolades for his dominance of the league, and Wade gets to be the unselfish star who ceded control of Miami to James for the good of the team, Bosh remains the odd man out. He exists in a world where the failures of the team are usually assigned to holes he’s unable to plug and the successes are assumed and as such rarely credited to him.
But through all the hardships of the past four seasons, Bosh can always look back at his two rings as confirmation for why he gave up all that he did.
“Always,” Bosh said assuredly. “That’s what’s most important. I was putting up big number before I came here and nobody really cared, now it’s all about winning.”
Sacrifice is hard, and rarely does it ever arrive at the participant’s request. Even when it’s rewarded, the martyr is usually still the only one that feels the brunt of the cost. When Chris Bosh found himself perched atop that stage in Miami back in 2010, he couldn’t have fathomed what his decision to play for the Heat would really entail.
Yet in a league that doesn’t just encourage selfishness, but rewards it, Bosh has accepted his transformation from star to role player in a conversion that has little precedence. For all the denigration from fans and pundits alike for not doing enough, it is Bosh’s moderation that has allowed the Heat to thrive.
In a culture that lauds selflessness almost as much as it glorifies winning, Chris Bosh stands alone and yet unrecognized as one of the greatest embodiments of both.