Chris Bosh: a modern-day NBA big before his time

Chris Bosh: a modern-day NBA big before his time

As the Miami Heat prepare to retire Chris Bosh’s jersey on 26 March, it only feels right to reminisce upon the Hall-of-Fame career of the two-time NBA champion and 11-time All-Star.

After attending Georgia Tech for one season, Bosh was drafted fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors in the infamous 2003 NBA Draft, featuring future teammates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, as well as Carmelo Anthony.

Bosh had a solid freshman season, averaging 31.1 minutes, 15.6 points, 9 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game (the latter being a conference leader). He became the first freshman since Antawn Jamison to lead the ACC in field-goal percentage (56%).

It’s fair to say Bosh’s time in Toronto was turbulent. Some of it his own doing but a large amount of upheaval in the organization didn’t help. During his seven seasons – five of which he was named to All-Star teams – the Raptors went through five general managers, three coaches, and constant roster upheaval. Against the backdrop of Vince Carter pressing for a trade, Bosh recorded All-Rookie First Team honors in the 2003-2004 season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 33.1 minutes per game. Leading all rookies in rebounds and blocks, he also set the Raptors franchise record for rebounds in a rookie season (557).

The keys to the Raptors offense were handed to Bosh, as Carter finally got his trade wish on 17 December 2004, when he was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. The focal point of an offense for the first time in his career the 20-year-old’s numbers began to rise to All-Star levels. A first All-Star selection came in the 2005-2006 campaign, after securing career highs in points (22.5), rebounds (9.2) and assists (2.6). Upon selection, the 6’11 power forward became only the third Raptors player to be selected to an All-Star team, after Carter and Jamison.

Bosh only ever played in two NBA Playoff Series with Toronto, a six-game first round loss to the New Jersey Nets in 2007 followed by a five-game, first-round defeat at the hands of Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic in 2008. Bosh’s career year came in 2009-2010, his final season as a Raptor. A 25-year-old Bosh averaged 24 points and 10.8 rebounds in 36.1 minutes per game, ranking him ninth in the league in rebounds per game, sixth in points per game and fourth in player efficiency rating (25.0), and joining Dwight Howard as the only two players to average 20 and 10 that season.

Despite Miami being the most recognized aspect of Bosh’s career, he certainly left a legacy in Toronto. He’s the leading rebounder in franchise history (4,776), first in block shots (600) and second in points with 10,275. Bosh and DeMar DeRozan are the only players in franchise history to record over 10,000 points.

In a December 2018 interview with The Star, Bosh said on his departure to South Beach: “It was time, I had goals, I wanted to win a championship and it just wasn’t here at that point in time unfortunately.” Joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, the revolutionary big three was created and instantly the expectations were championship or bust. All the controversy surrounding LeBron’s decision to swap Cleveland for Miami made the Heat the villains of the league.

Having to adapt, Bosh was the third option on a championship-level team and, of course, his numbers would reflect that. His usage percentage dropped to levels similar only in comparison to his first two seasons in the league (23.1), likewise for his attempted field-goals per game, where there was also a noticeable drop-off, from 16.5 in 2009-10 to 13.7 in his first season with the Heat.

Like Kevin Love during LeBron’s second stint in Cleveland, Bosh was often unfairly on the receiving end of flack for his performances in high leverage playoff moments. He was a very good mid-range shooter, among the best in the league, and he possessed good quickness that allowed him to switch effectively all over the court on the defensive side of the ball.

The Heat went to four straight NBA Finals between 2010 and 2014, going 2-2. The series they would want back is the 2011 Finals against Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks. Leading t2-1 going into Game 4, the Heat collapsed and lost three straight. By the end of Game 6 in the American Airlines Arena, a cutaway to the locker room hallway found a doubled over Chris Bosh in tears after the defeat. The Heat would, of course, avenge this defeat the following season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, beating a team with three future MVP’s 4-1 in the 2012 NBA Finals.

The real legacy game of Chris Bosh’s career is Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. The score is 95-92 with fewer than 10 seconds remaining, then came the legendary Mike Breen call: “Rebound Bosh, out to Allen, his three-pointer – BANG! TIE-GAME!”

As Game 6 went in to overtime, Bosh displayed some of the best defense of his career. San Antonio inbounded the ball to Danny Green, who attempted a game-tying three-point shot in front of the Spurs bench, but Bosh used all his 7’3 wingspan to block his attempt sending the Heat to an unlikely Game 7. Despite Bosh being held scoreless in Game 7, the Heat won sealing a second straight NBA title for the big three.

After a crushing five-game 2014 NBA Finals loss at the hands of the Spurs, LeBron returned home to Cleveland, leaving the Heat with big decisions to make. Bosh re-signed, keeping two-thirds of the big three still intact. Unfortunately, here began the start of the 11-time All-Star’s injury problems.

After playing in the 2015 All-Star game, Bosh was admitted to hospital for lung tests during the break. On 21 February 2015, he was ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a blood clot in one of his lungs. Despite returning to the team the following season and playing until the 2016 All-Star break, Bosh once again had a blood clot, this time in his leg. The power forward failed his physical exam for the 2016-17 season, leaving his career all but over, suggesting on multiple occasions he would continue to try for a comeback, however, this never materialized due to fear for his health.

With 17,189 points (93rd all-time), 7,592 rebounds (79th) and 20.6 player efficiency rating (60th), Bosh represents the all-time ranking of the two-time NBA champion in three impressive statistical categories. His career averages of 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds are impressive, considering he spent almost half of his career as a second or third choice option on offense.

In his final seasons, he was beginning to show his ability from three-point range, developing into a true modern-day NBA big man. As versatile a big man as you are likely to see, today’s NBA really would have suited Bosh down to a tee.

Feature photo – Andrew Francis Wallace / Getty Images / AP / Miami Herald / Double Clutch illustration