Since July, when he and Dwyane Wade announced live on SportsCenter that they'd be joining forces on the Miami Heat and that they hoped their friend LeBron James would join them, it's been all downhill for Chris Bosh's reputation. He's helped it along, making some comments of questionable logic (like when he got mad at ) and missteps that could have easily been avoided (like when he said for -- gasp -- diving for a loose ballhe went to South Beach with Wade to "chill").
The knock on Bosh in Toronto, where he was the Raptors' depth chart for seven years, was that he was a minus defensively and a power forward more interested in spotting up from 18 feet than doing the dirty work. That's a crime in the NBA, or at least reason for ridicule; Bosh is hardly alone in drawing the criticism. Ask Dirk Nowitzki, who has taken heat for a decade for not being Reggie Evans or Kendrick Perkins in the paint. Ask Chris Webber, who always heard this line of argument.
Maybe some of that is fair; Bosh's defense activity level typically leaves something to be desired, and given his length, athleticism and skill, he'd probably do more damage than he thinks if he set up on the block more frequently. But on the whole, Bosh is a very good player who takes inordinate heat because he's not as good as his elite teammates -- teammates that wanted Bosh, by the way -- and because someone's got to be the fall guy for the failure of the Miami Heat to turn the league on its ear and because he looks more like
an ostrich a gazelle than an ox.
When Bosh stunk up Game 3, preventing the Heat from taking a 3-0 lead against the defending East champs (gasp!), and followed it up by admitting publicly that the Boston crowd intimidated him, the critics had just that much more ammunition. Never mind that Bosh was really good against the Celtics in the first two games in Miami, or that he was matched against maybe the top defensive power forward in the history of the NBA, Kevin Garnett. He stunk, the Heat didn't discover a new element, and the target on Bosh's chest got even larger.
Same story in the first half of Game 4: he was overmatched against Garnett, and he played tentative, ineffective basketball. If at that point he would have said he was no longer effected by the crowd, we would have called him a liar, because that excuse -- made after Game 3, mind you -- made perfect sense. We saw Bosh stink in Game 3, watched him say he was intimidated, and it made sense. Then we watched him stink in the first half of Game 4, like a presentation of real-time evidence. "Yep, he's in trouble." The Heat trailed by just three at halftime -- LeBron and Wade were something else -- but the narrative was set: Bosh continues to hold Miami back.
We'll likely never know what happened at halftime, because nothing probably happened at halftime. Bosh had five points on 2-8 shooting with two rebounds in 19 minutes in the first half; in the second half and overtime, he had 15 points on 6-9 shooting and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. What happened? Who said what to Bosh to turn him from a noodle into a potato? What happened in his chest? What brambles and briar did his soul have to trek through to turn it around and beat the Celtics?
Nothing, no one, nothing, none. Bosh has always been a very good player, albeit one with particular quirks and deficiencies. Sometimes, even very good players have bad nights, or bad weeks (hi, Pau), or bad matchups. That doesn't mean they are lesser humans, lesser men or less competitors. That Chris Bosh gets the shakes in a daunting environment and is naive enough to announce it doesn't make him anything less than an All-Star player. Too often in basketball we conflate personality with ability. We discount a player's on-court contribution because of his off-court persona. Bosh sounds something like a diva, so we attribute those qualities to his play, even when presented evidence -- like his legit All-Star production this season -- to the contrary.
Garnett is a tough hombre, with a 15:1 scowl-smile ratio, even off of the court, outside of battle. So we ignore his own shortcomings on the court, in the field of battle. In this series, KG is averaging 14 points on 42 percent shooting and 10 rebounds. Bosh is putting up almost identical numbers. But because of our perceptions of these players as men, only one has something to prove. Only one faces catcalls as a rule. (It's worth noting Pau Gasol put up these same numbers against the Dallas Mavericks. Heard anyone question Garnett's skin lately?)
Separating performance from narrative is one of the most difficult things to do, and Bosh's place in this league and on this team complicates matters. But it's pretty clear at this point that Bosh belongs here, on this stage and as a vital piece of this Miami Heat team. To consider otherwise is to ignore reality.