Chris Bosh brought evolution to the game, but was robbed of seeing it through

Chris Bosh brought evolution to the game, but was robbed of seeing it through

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There’s a chance Chris Bosh could still be an active NBA player right now.

He turns 38 years old this coming March, so take that into account, but still — there’s a chance. The point is, because of how his career ended prematurely, we don’t know and we never will. And instead of prepping for the grind of another season right now, he heads up to Springfield, Mass., to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.

As has been written about elsewhere extensively, Bosh is, in many ways, the blueprint for today’s modern well-rounded two-way big man who could score inside and out. Offensively, he was one of the best of his time, carried by the offensive prowess he established with the Toronto Raptors, and made legendary by his performances under a 24/7 spotlight with the Miami Heat. From 2003 to 2010, he was virtually a walking 20-10, averaging 20.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 80 percent on free throws. He was just a 30 percent three-point shooter, but he only shot 168 threes in 509 games with the Raptors.

Then, with the Heat, Bosh had to change his game as the perceived third wheel, averaging 17.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks as a stretch four and five next to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James from 2010 to 2014. Bosh, now averaging 1.2 three-point attempts per game and shooting considerably more mid-range jumpers from 16-feet and beyond than he did in Toronto, had shooting splits of 51 / 32 / 81 those four regular seasons. In the playoffs, where Miami reached the NBA Finals in all four years, with titles coming in 2012 and 2013, Bosh averaged 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game on 48 / 41 / 79 splits. But after James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014, Bosh returned on a max contract, then $118 million over five years, cementing him as the guy as Wade was beginning his decline, though he returned to the Heat as well.

Bosh, post Big Three era, was awesome. In 2014-15, he averaged 21.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game on 46 / 38 / 77 splits. He had been shooting a career-high 3.8 attempts per game from three while still getting to the free throw line over five times per contest. Unfortunately, Bosh’s season-ended after blood clots in his lungs were discovered, limiting his campaign to 44 games. The Heat had been 22-30 by the All-Star break, which Bosh, an All-Star, missed after the setback, but traded for Goran Dragić the day before Bosh’s diagnosis.

In his 2014-15 return, the Heat were even better. Bosh put up 19.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game on 47 / 37 / 80 splits, now shooting over four threes per game. Bosh was, again, an All-Star. However, he again was forced to prematurely end his season due to blood clots. He had logged 53 games prior, where the Heat went 29-24, and didn’t play again after the All-Star break. The Heat had gone 48-34 and took the Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and this was the year the Cavaliers eventually won the championship, but health stood in the way of a possible Cavs-Heat conference finals.

Bosh had never missed a game in 2015-16 until that point, and then he never played again. He couldn’t, in fact.

We’ll never know what could’ve been. Bosh’s last game came over a month before his 32nd birthday. He had been aging as gracefully as you’d want for a big man, setting the template for others to stylistically follow, like Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Evan Mobley. His contract would’ve taken him to 2019, where at age 35, who knows? If Bosh remains healthy, could the Heat have made an NBA Finals over one of those weaker Cavalier rosters? Specifically, the 2017-18 team? But it’s even more complicated than that.

Hassan Whiteside became a revelation in 2014-15 but emerged as a full-time starter and max player, which the Heat made him in the summer of 2016, in Bosh’s absence. In 2016-17, the Heat began the season 11-30, then finished 41-41 juuust missing the playoffs. That summer, the Heat gave four-year extensions to James Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Kelly Olynyk, which they’re typically more ruthless about. They then had all their cap space tied up, were a middling team through 2017-2019, and later somehow landed Jimmy Butler using Whiteside, Josh Richardson and a first-round pick without having cap space in 2019. Butler, along with 2017 first-rounder Bam Adebayo and Dragić, led the Heat to the 2020 NBA Finals, and currently are back in win-now mode.

There’s no way to predict the chain events that was, or may not have been, had Bosh remained healthy and had a natural decline toward the end of his playing career rather than an abrupt exit.

Bosh’s departure changed everything for the Heat, and they were able to maneuver out of them as they did when Alonzo Mourning had his sudden kidney struggles in the early 2000s. But for Bosh, after struggling to do so initially, he’s at least found closure, and will now assume his rightful place in the Hall of Fame.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.