It's been a while since Chris Bosh had to be the man.
And he knows it.
"I think sometimes you miss it," Bosh said recently, according to ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh. "You wonder if you can still do it and step up to the challenge. I haven't had to be that guy. I played with the best player in the world. I didn't have to be the alpha. But now, I get to see if I have it in me, and not many people are going to believe I have what's necessary. But that's what makes it exciting."
Exciting because it represents an unknown. Much as LeBron James' departure creates opportunity for Bosh, it remains to be seen how he'll respond. After settling into the habits of a complementary player, the 30-year-old must now rediscover a younger, more selfish self—without abandoning everything he's learned as a polished veteran.
He knows that, too.
Bosh added, "You know, I'm not the same player that I was when I was 25, the last time I got to [be the No. 1 option]. I'm more mature, my game is more mature and I can do a bunch of things on and off the court to fully maximize this team's potential."
It will be a careful balancing act for Bosh, who opted to remain with Miami after being offered a five-year, $118 million deal.
Though he'd certainly like to do some of the things he did during the beginning of his career with the Toronto Raptors, he doesn't want this Miami team to resemble those Raptors.
They were never very good.
This time, Bosh-the-leader is aiming higher. Importantly, he'll also have more help—namely Dwyane Wade, who agreed to a two-year pact with the team on Tuesday. He'll also work alongside James' replacement at the small-forward spot, Luol Deng.
But even with the help, Bosh's role remains central.
As ESPN.com noted, "Keeping Bosh was a huge part of Miami's immediate reaction plan after learning that James was leaving. He's an All-Star who averaged 16.2 points on 52 percent shooting last season, and now figures to potentially get many more shots in the Heat offensive scheme."
As Bosh said, he "can [now] do a bunch of things on and off the court to fully maximize this team's potential."
His game has evolved since 2010, especially on the perimeter.
During his final season in Toronto, Bosh attempted just 0.3 three-pointers per game. That number increased to 2.8 this season and 3.7 during the playoffs, when he cashed in on an impressive 40.5 percent of those attempts.
"I feel I'm a much better leader and a much better player, and I'm much more prepared for the role, the all-around role, that they need me to fill," Bosh said. "That's exciting for me to really challenge myself and step up to the plate next year and make sure we get it done, no matter what happens."
He's certainly made himself a better all-around commodity. Always a solid threat from mid-range, Bosh can now space the floor like a quintessential stretch 4.
Here's a look at Bosh's shot chart from last season.
And yet, he remains a dangerous interior scorer who can post up with his back to the basket or beat guys off the dribble facing them.
Bosh is also an underrated passer.
He only averaged 1.1 assists last season, largely on account of the ball remaining in James' hands. But Bosh has twice averaged 2.6 assists in seasons with the Raptors, back when the offense ran through him on a consistent basis.
If his paycheck is any indication, the offense will be running through him pretty often once again. His versatility will be tested as he attempts to satisfy a range of needs for Miami.
Wade will turn 33 in January, and odds are he's further away from his prime than Bosh. Deng can do a lot of things in his own right (as evidenced by his 2013-14 line of 16 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists), but he's not nearly the playmaker James was.
So Bosh's role will continue to evolve. He'll be doing far more than patrolling the perimeter while awaiting drive-and-kick passes. Now he'll have to initiate some offense, too, likely using his comfort zone in the high post and operating in pick-and-pop scenarios with Wade.
The leadership Bosh mentioned should come in handy, too. As much as anything James did on the floor, it was his presence that gave this team confidence in itself. He demanded accountability and shaped the culture in Miami.
Those are big shoes to fill, to say nothing of the four-time MVP's production.
But we know Bosh is up to it, and not just because he's said all the right things. He could have gone to Houston, where he would have again been the third wheel of a star-studded trio. He could have taken an easier way out, virtually guaranteeing himself the opportunity to contend with the Rockets.
Instead, he took a whole lot of money—and took on a whole lot of responsibility.
That's not the sign of a guy who's shying away from superstar demands. In this instance, Bosh's actions speak louder than his words. He wants this.
And the Heat need it.
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