Chris Bosh Is Ready For The Challenge Presented By LeBron’s Departure

He was all but gone and nobody would have blamed him if he left.

But instead of departing for a more promising situation in Houston, Chris Bosh has decided to save the Miami Heat from immediate extinction as a NBA contender.

He has 118 million reasons to stay–as that is the amount of money he will be paid on a max contract originally slotted for his former running mate, LeBron James. But there is more to Bosh than accepting a deal thrown at his feet by a desperate and spurned Pat Riley, and the basketball community would be wise to acknowledge that fact.

No member of Miami’s former trio has had to sacrifice more than Bosh. While they all have shared in ridicule and unjust criticism, Bosh’s perceived transgressions have haunted him well past his ability on the basketball court. Without getting into the well-known specifics, Bosh is probably one of the most memed athletes in sports, having been “caught” in pictures and photo-shopped onto animals and creatures of prehistoric origin. It hasn’t been just about basketball for him.

On the court, he has honed his game to become a threat from three (33% last season) in order to clear space for the bulldozing greatness of James and slashing ability of Dwyane Wade in many of Miami’s spread sets. That migration to the perimeter has seen his primary numbers trend downward since his arrival in Miami, especially from a rebounding standpoint.

Bosh averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in his first season with the Heat and those numbers dipped to 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in his most recent body of work. He’s never been a volume shooter, but the supremely talented Bosh attempted just 12.1 shots per game last season. The most puzzling footnote to that stat to keep in mind is that Wade missed 28 games; Bosh’s touches should have easily spiked as a natural second option in more games last season as a result of Wade’s absence.

He never really complained about anything in Miami with specific regard to his role or shot attempts. He mentioned wanting more offensive responsibility from time to time but said nothing that would ever become a legitimate distraction. Most of the incidents when he made comments about his role came from a place that made basketball sense – so much so that reporters and teammates would agree in those passing moments.

But Bosh’s burden, or lack thereof, never changed for a consistent amount of time. Maybe it was foolish to think it could with the greatest player in the world and one of the best shooting guards of all time on his team.

Now the Miami Heat will be Bosh’s team – you read that correctly. Wade is the grandfathered namesake and face of the franchise, but all of Miami’s future success will rest with the 30 year-old lefty from Dallas, Texas. He can’t duplicate the production losing James represents and nobody could, but the Heat need to reinvent themselves as a team that features Bosh from the post and mid-range. A move back to his more natural power forward position is also in order, but Riley has pieces to acquire yet to ensure that can happen.

A return to the form that made him a 20-and-10 All-Star in Toronto is the Bosh Miami is hoping to see over the next few seasons. He’s been patient and has now proven himself to be loyal despite the ridicule and the seeming off-court disconnect he had with James and Wade. For Bosh it’s been about what Mimai could do on the court and he’s never lost sight of that. The Heat wouldn’t have won two championships or appeared in four straight NBA Finals without Bosh. He has been the silent partner whose input was always timely in helping to save the day. Those in Miami know that, and Riley has rewarded Bosh for it in lieu of The King returning home.

James took himself out of the equation with the Heat, but Bosh is still in Miami and is an even bigger piece of the puzzle than ever before. He doesn’t have to walk on egg shells anymore or play in LeBron’s shadow. He is looking to be the next Miami Heat legend alongside franchise greats Alonzo Mourning and Wade. Bosh has always had the talent and ability to do so, he just needed the chance.

Challenge accepted.

Will Bosh regain his superstar form with James in Cleveland?

Follow Warren on Twitter at @ShawSportsNBA.

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