If LeBron James is the lioness who does the actual hunting for his pride while Dwyane Wade sits back and shakes his mane, then Chris Bosh is the hyena that swoops in to clean up the scraps of the kill. Like Bosh, hyenas look a little funny. People make fun of them. They get undeserved criticism for their role as scavengers, but people don't realize how their ecosystem would fall apart if you removed them from the equation.
He had a poor Finals, didn't he? Well, not so fast -- he scored 14 points a game on 55 percent shooting, a model of consistency for the 30-year-old Dallas native. He averaged 15 points on 51 percent shooting for the entire playoffs; he finished the season with 16 points a game on 52 percent shooting.
See, even when Bosh was doing the exact same things he'd done all season, it seemed like he wasn't doing enough. He was doing enough when his team secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Oh, he was definitely doing enough as his team dusted off their suffocating defense and easily rolled their the first two of the playoffs. He wasn't doing enough when he missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but he was in the clear when he hit that shot in the lone Heat win in the Finals.
Because of LeBron's presence, Bosh has already been on the back burner when it came to criticism -- but it's been there for years, on a slow simmer, never boiling over but bubbling up here and there when it became convenient. When the Heat needed a scapegoat and James wouldn't suffice, the blame quickly fell to Bosh. After all, few people realize that sometimes, it's the lion that steals the kill from the hyena.
Bosh's role in Miami is fascinating. Does anyone even remember that in Bosh's last year in Toronto, he averaged 24 points and 10.8 rebounds a game? In that 2009-10 season, his last before departing Canada for warmer waters, Bosh posted a PER of 25.1. It was the fourth-highest of any player in the league -- behind Kevin Durant, Wade and James.
As so it happened, two of those three would be his teammates. With all three of them facing free agency come July 1st, there have been frequent reminders that the trio signed for under the max deal. However, Bosh was by far the most unselfish -- he willingly limited his own skills to fit with two of the small handful of players who were actually better offensive players.
Now that Bosh has officially opted out of his contract, a fascinating question arises. More likely than not, Bosh will return to Miami. He probably already has an idea of the contract he will sign, and he at least has strong suspicions of which players will join him as teammates -- which stars, which role players, which extra pieces that were missing from the equation in five games against the Spurs.
But with the ability to sign with any of the 29 other NBA teams, the question is this: has Bosh permanently become the hyena? Or, given the opportunity on another team, in another city with another cast of players, could he cast away his self-applied limitations and dominate like the lion he once was in Toronto?
I can't answer that. I'd imagine even Bosh has a bit of doubt. After all, breaking four-year tendencies is no simple task. But I'd love to see him try in Dallas or elsewhere.
Fit with the Mavericks
The main problem with this is that it's very unlikely Bosh leaves Miami. It appears the Big 3 are set to re-sign, and as fun as it would be to watch Bosh try his hand at superstar again, it's just not very realistic.
He'd fit awkwardly with the Mavericks now that Tyson Chandler is in the fold, but I do think a Dirk/Bosh combo could work. But alas, he'll return to South Beach and the Heat will get better with a few key free agent signings.
I just hope you do appreciate Bosh for what he does.
Here's Jordan White on Bosh, the "emotional superstar."
And here's Tom Haberstroh with a look at how Bosh has found peace in Miami.
Two excellent profiles. I highly recommend if you have the time.