Chris Bosh has the power.
At no point over the last four(ish) years has it seemed like the Miami Heat's Big Three would disband once given the opportunity. Less than two months before the first chance they'll have to dissolve this partnership, nothing has changed. Not even slightly.
Common courtesy is more likely to wash over Lance Stephenson than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh are to go their separate ways. Win or lose in the NBA Finals, this trio isn't done.
Turning this formality into an absolute certainty, though, starts with Bosh, the oft-devalued superstar whose imminent free-agency decision will be the first domino to fall in what should be a fluid chain reaction.
"Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to go anywhere," he said while on The Dan LeBatard Show, per The Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser. "I like it here. It’s Miami. Everybody wants to come here. Yeah.”
There you go. Bosh wants to return. Bosh is going to return.
Bosh says he is definitely coming back to Miami next year, but doesn't want to get into that conversation right now.— Jason Lieser (@PBPjasonlieser) May 28, 2014
Now everything and everyone else is free to fall into place.
Caging the Biggest Flight Risk
Some are inclined to think that James is Miami's biggest flight risk.
Those people are wrong.
Who would James truly leave the Heat for this summer?
It's not going to be for the Los Angeles Lakers, who offer the opportunity for him to drum up Kobe Bryant's ring count. It's not going to be for the Chicago Bulls, who must gut their roster just to create enough cap space.
And it's not going to be for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This year's No. 1 pick changes the trajectory of their future, but nostalgia won't win James over. Not this summer, anyway. Feel free to dream big a year from now if James hits free agency in 2015 after monitoring the Cavs from afar for another season.
Wade clearly isn't going anywhere either. He's spent his entire career in Miami. The idea that he would leave after winning three championships—possibly four—and helping put this franchise back on the map is ludicrous. He is more likely to retire before his 33rd birthday than he is to leave the Heat now.
Of all three stars, Bosh is the only possible greener-grass seeker, because it's he who has sacrificed the most since the summer of 2010.
We laud Wade for his ability to let James assume control of the Heat, as we should. He went from the No. 1 option and face of the organization to James' sidekick, to an aging star on a regular-season maintenance program.
But Bosh gave up more. He went from being a No. 1 option with the Toronto Raptors to third fiddle behind James and Wade.
While he was in Toronto, Bosh frequently had the ball in hands and was free to operate from wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Playing alongside the dribble-penetration stylings of James and Wade has forced him to change. He's no longer the first option or a ball-dominating big man.
He's a floor-spacing center.
Winning multiple championships makes this adjustment easier, yet whenever superstar egos are involved, title-chasing isn't always everything. Especially when, as Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal made clear, he's not held in the same regard as his two running mates:
All the while, Bosh has been the third option. Although he's played fantastic basketball and contributing invaluably to the photobombing and videobombing efforts of the two-time defending champions, he just doesn't feel like he belongs in the same category.
The city is in love with Wade. The city is in love with LeBron.
The city likes Bosh.
"Hate" or "indifference" aren't two words that spring to mind when searching for Bosh's connection to Miami. But a majority of the city's affections and most of the spotlight is reserved for players other than him.
Unsated by his diminished role, Bosh could be evasive. He could refuse to comment on his impending free agency. He could leave. And once he left, everything could unravel.
Fortunately, the Heat don't have to worry about such issues. There will be no unraveling.
Bosh, the Heat superstar most likely to sprout wings and fly the coop, has set a precedent by being happy where he stands.
Whatever you may have heard about Wade's decline is wrong.
Unless you've heard it's a figment of the collective imagination.
There has been no decline for Wade. There have been adjustments, there have been injuries, there has been protracted rest.
But there has been no decline.
Wade's age and health remain an issue nonetheless. He's often pinpointed as a driving force behind James' decision to stay or leave, a responsibility he wants no part in.
“Just don’t solely put it on me,” he told USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. “That’s what I’m saying. Don’t put the X on me. ... There’s a lot that goes into, so just don’t say, ‘If Dwyane Wade doesn’t have the year that we’re accustomed to, it’s over.’"
Anyone who believes that James' free-agency endeavors will be solely leashed to Wade's performance should test the water they're drinking to make sure it isn't actually bleach. Too many things will go into James' free agency. That's the way it is for every free agent.
Among the most important factors—in addition to Wade's health, if you want to play that game—is Bosh.
Retaining him ensures two-thirds of the Big Three will remain in Miami, because again, Wade isn't going anywhere. If anything, knowing Bosh and Wade are staying with the Heat makes things easier on James. He knows he can play with them. He knows, despite all the obstacles they've faced and roadblocks they've yet to encounter, they can win together.
Equally important, he knows what he'll be getting into.
Should one member of the Big Three leave—like Bosh—everything changes. The other two suddenly have to worry about Miami restocking its roster with additional star power—a harrowing task these days considering how punitive luxury taxes are and how much other work needs to be done.
Only Udonis Haslem is a lock to return next season. He's not turning down his player option worth $4.6 million. We'll loop Chris Andersen into this category too. He'll likely exercise his $1.4 million player option—that is, if the soon-to-be 36-year-old doesn't retire instead.
Somewhat lost in the Big Three's early termination options is, well, everything else.
Shane Battier will probably retire. Andersen could retire. Ray Allen is a free agent, or he could retire. Rashard Lewis—three-point shooting extraordinaire again...apparently—is a free agent. Mario Chalmers is a free agent, and he could price himself out of Miami's range.
Norris Cole is technically the only Heat player under guaranteed contract for next season. That increases the importance of keeping Miami's proven core together.
Fling a wrench in those plans, and nothing is off limits. There's no telling what James will do if Bosh leaves, or how the Heat will replace him.
Keeping Bosh creates an air of certainty, a luxury even the mighty Heat need now with their supporting cast primed for drastic change.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
Bigger than Bosh guaranteeing his return is Bosh maintaining his at-all-costs attitude.
“If that’s what it takes," he said when asked if he would accept below market value to stay in Miami, via Lieser.
Now, this could mean nothing.
Or, MiO-in-your-water-style, it could change everything.
If Bosh, Wade and James simply decide to opt into the next year of their contracts, pay cuts won't matter. They won't be taking them. But if they decide to sign new contracts, this is huge.
Although Wade's decline has been exaggerated, he is on the wrong side of 32. Committing more money and years to him will hamper the team's financial flexibility and, in time, their ability to win.
Obvious logic would suggest he take a significant pay cut to remain in Miami, keep the Big Three together and give the Heat an opportunity to add more marquee talent. Will he do that, or will he sign something similar to Bryant's deal, restricting Miami's spending power considerably?
Moreover, if he does take less, will it be enough?
The Big Three are already projected to earn more than $61 million combined next season, obliterating nearly all of the Heat's cap space. More than one person will need to take less if they're to reel in talented players.
Maybe James does it.
We know Bosh will do it.
Whatever it takes—within reason—he will do it. This, more than anything else, is what we've learned about him since 2010.
Through the highs and lows, he exists for the team. Wade and James may be the barometers for their success, but he is the ultimate gauge of camaraderie, of the family-like culture Miami prattles about.
"You always fear," Pat Riley told Darren Rovell of ESPN.com of the Big Three's future. "It's not a real fear. I always have concern when players are in the situation they're in."
There's nothing for Riley and the Heat to concern themselves with.
Bosh has already committed to next year.
Those who matter most—James and Wade—will inevitably follow his lead.
*Contract information via ShamSports.