And that's assuming they even make it past this round. As of Tuesday, the Heat had split the first two games with the Indiana Pacers and forfeited their home-court advantage.
Wait, you say, wouldn't a title for the Heat without Bosh be vindication for James, or at least an answer to his detractors? After all, if the main complaint against the Heat is that it's a team overstuffed with All-Stars, then wouldn't a title with only Dwyane Wade mean James was being forced to operate short-handed?
It's possible, if you're capable of thinking that any team could have James and Wade on its roster and somehow be suffering from a paucity of talent. More to the point, though, it calls into question the very idea of the Big Three. Not a Big Three, but this Big Three, the way they came together, and the reasons they stated for their need to exist. If LeBron and Wade get a Bosh-less title, they are fools for having brought him on board in the first place, right?
From a basketball standpoint, that's a waste. These two guys insist on bringing their buddy along and in the process, they max out Miami's salary cap. Suppose the Heat can get a title without Bosh. Then LeBron and Wade will be criticized for dictating the terms of this team instead of letting wise basketball lifers do the thinking. Nice title, guys. By the way, you're idiots!
But it goes deeper than that. James came to Miami to be part of a team, to make others better. If it turns out he needs less talent around him to succeed, James isn't making people better, he's a player who needs to concentrate mostly on making the most of his own sizable gifts. It may not sound like an important distinction, but it cuts to the quick of how LeBron sees himself and his team in Miami.
James may not need Bosh to win. Wouldn't he rather win with him than without him, though? Isn't that the entire idea behind this phase of his career?
Of course, like all criticism directed at LeBron, these hypotheticals proceed from the assumption that he doesn't play on five-man teams like the rest of the league does. Because he's seen as making everything about himself (by his critics, again) the relationship between James and a missing player is all that matters. Never mind that Bosh is a big man and that while James can admirably do some of the same things a power forward or center does, he can't take his place.
Even if the Heat win a title, they could still use a big man. That's an impressive accomplishment, not a sign that the team is better off without Bosh. If they come up short, clearly they could still have used some size. Why is that such a hard concession to make?
But that's never how it is with LeBron James. Everything he does is wrong, even when it's right. The slightest hiccup or miscue becomes a scandal or gross miscarriage of basketball justice. It's not a conversation, it's a bunch of people who hate the dude looking for more reasons to. Actually, they don't want reasons. They want more excuses to repeat themselves, more shapes for the same basic sentiment.
It's not a great sports debate; it's more like the "debate" surrounding our president. To some, whatever Barack Obama does is wrong, no matter how many times it has to be twisted back around itself to end up there. In both cases, there are plenty of folks who are legitimately undecided or conflicted about these public figures. But they have by and large lost interest in talking about it. It's not dialogue, it's a broken record.
So let's see what happens. Can the Heat win without Bosh? Maybe the real question is, can LeBron James ever win at all?