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Chris Bosh's Legacy More Than Just NBA Championship Rings

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Chris Bosh's Legacy More Than Just NBA Championship Rings
USA TODAY Sports

In so many different ways, Chris Bosh has served as the unofficial scapegoat of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.

Praise for Miami's many successes has fallen not on his shoulders, but on those of his first-ballot Hall of Fame-bound teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Yet, criticisms from the Heat's rare moments of mortality always find their way to the versatile big man.

He's dismissed as too soft by some, too passive by others. He's a nine-time All-Star, leaving fans to wonder why his stat sheet doesn't always reflect his NBA stature.

His box scores are a major part of his basketball story, but not in the way one would typically think. For everything he's accomplished in his career, it's the individual sacrifices he's made—both on the stat sheet and in his bank account—that should secure his lasting spot in basketball annals.

"He is our most important player," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in 2012, via NBC Sports' Brett Pollakoff. "...He makes it look easy and he makes it look quiet, and yet he's so impactful on the game."

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Massaging egos is a major part of Spoelstra's profession, but his words were more than coddling. Bosh's ability to adapt whenever and however the Heat have asked has helped Miami pave four consecutive paths to the NBA Finals.

When Bosh, James and Wade redefined the term "superteam" by joining forces in 2010, the three No. 1 options faced a basketball life unlike any they had ever known. Bosh, an established 20-10 contributor during his seven seasons with the Toronto Raptors, had to rediscover himself away from center stage.

He knew what he had signed up for, but putting that plan into practice didn't come without its fair share of obstacles.

"You realize how much you give up when you’re in certain situations — when it’s late [in the] game and I’m like, 'Give it to me in the post, I know I can score,'" Bosh told Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry. "But instead it’s like, 'No, we gotta get Dwyane goin.' It was a tough pill to swallow."

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Making matters worse, his move off center stage did not take him out of the spotlight entirely.

He was a member of the vilified Heat, a manufactured dynasty that drew ire from the masses not for its makeup, but rather the manner of its construction.

Bosh, the lowest-ranking member of Miami's talented trio, felt the wrath of that hatred.

"When we first got here, I didn't understand everything that was going on," Bosh told CBS Sports' Zach Harper. "I wanted people to like me, and it seemed that they didn't."

People wanted the Toronto version of Bosh, the one who had compiled per-game averages of 22.9 points and 10.1 boards over his final four seasons with the Raptors. They wanted the game-changing Bosh, conveniently overlooking the fact that the game itself had changed for the big man.

He averaged 16 shots a night over that productive four-year stretch north of the border. Since migrating to Miami, he's seen just 13 come his way.

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"Everybody's like, 'We need CB4.' And I'm like, that's dead. He's dead," Bosh said, via ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh. "He's not coming back. This is me. I can't hold on to the past and think I'm going to be who I was back then. It's impossible. Because I'm much better now."

That part of Bosh's narrative is far too often overlooked. He's a different player from his Toronto days, but one of equal (or greater) importance.

He's lost some quantity, but his stat sheet holds more quality now than ever.

Last season, he shot a career-high 53.5 percent from the field. This year, he nearly tripled his previous high in three-point attempts (218, up from 74) while outperforming his career success rate from distance (33.9 percent this season, 31.0 percent for his career).

His effective field-goal percentage, which weighs the value of three-point makes, was a personal best 55.5 in 2013-14, via Basketball-Reference.com. Ditto for his 59.7 true-shooting percentage, which adds free-throw shooting to the mix.

Bosh has evolved, which made Miami's evolution into perennial contender possible. During his seven seasons with the Raptors, 50 percent of his field-goal attempts came from within 10 feet of the basket, via Basketball-Reference. This season, just 38.6 percent of his shots came from that range.

He's a legitimate threat from anywhere on the floor.

Bosh's 2013-14 shot chart, via NBA.com.

His 66.5 percent shooting from within eight feet of the hoop was the fourth-best mark among all shooters with at least 300 such attempts, via NBA.com. He had the league's third-best mid-range shooting percentage (48.4) of all players with at least 300 shots from that zone.

It's hard to overstate the importance of Bosh's ability to space the floor.

With shooters surrounding them, James and Wade unleashed a vicious two-headed, dribble-drive attack. James converted a league-best 63.6 percent of his shots on drives (minimum 300 attempts), while Wade checked in at No. 4 with a 54.6 percent success rate, according to NBA.com's SportVU player tracking data.

That real estate doesn't exist without Bosh pulling an opponent's big away from the basket. Bosh couldn't have done that a few years back, but he added that shot to his arsenal and made this offense exponentially more explosive.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

"The thing I like about this, is, of course I'm not the guy, I'm not the number-one option," Bosh said, via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. "That gives me creativity to be able to take my position and mold it into what I want to do."

In turn, the Heat have become a better ballclub with Bosh 2.0.

Miami outscored its opponents by 9.8 points per 100 possessions with Bosh on the floor this season, via NBA.com. While he sat, Miami was outscored by 0.4 points per 100 possessions. His plus-10.2 net differential was the best among all Heat regulars.

Floor spacing is just one of a number of hats Bosh has worn during his four-year stay in South Beach.

He's also been a valuable defensive presence both for his interior play and his ability to switch out on to perimeter players. He's provided a consistent lift on the glass, for the rebounds he's tracked down (6.6 per game this season) and the ones he's kept alive by boxing out his man.

He's shuttled everywhere between being a first, second and third option depending on which running mates surround him on any given night. He's been a clutch-shot maker, delivering daggers like the cold-blooded bullet he fired at Portland earlier this season.

And he's twice been a world champion, a vital piece of this plot but far from the only element to his multilayered NBA story.

"Bosh is a gifted player who will likely be more appreciated after his career," Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe wrote. "That’s when the reflections will begin of the greatness of the Miami championship teams and the plays Bosh made...and he’ll be remembered as a pivotal part of Miami’s dynasty."

The question we all need to ask is why should we wait to celebrate greatness when it's standing right in front of us?

Bosh is not riding anyone's coattails—he's the tailor making sure those of his teammates fit as best as humanly possible.

That's how the basketball world needs to remember Chris Bosh. As the NBA's chameleon, adapting to any circumstance in whatever way best served his team.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.

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