The Hall of Fame Case for Chris Bosh
Don’t debate me.
Chris Bosh is destined for a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball of Hall Fame.
The lanky 6’11” power forward hadn’t played in an NBA game since dropping a routine 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting while going a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line and grabbing seven rebounds in a loss against the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 9, 2016. However, his career came to an official end early in 2017’s free-agency period, when he was waived by the Miami Heat following a bout with recurring blood clots, which emerged in both his lungs and calves.The condition brought his playing days, as he knew them, to a halt quicker than anti-lock brakes just as he’d, once again, repurposed his game in Miami’s post-LeBron James, post-championship era.
The Georgia Tech product’s accomplishments—11 All-Star selections in 13 seasons, two championships, an Olympic gold medal and a second-team All-NBA choice—should immediately mute the slightest murmur of objection to the notion he should be inducted into the Hall as soon he’s eligible in five years. If his raw career numbers (19.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game) don’t persuade you, a deeper dive into the context in which he produced them, especially in comparison to his future contemporaries in Springfield’s figures, should convince you of the truth.
In five seasons prior to leaving the Toronto Raptors to join 2003 draft classmates James and Dwyane Wade in Miami for the 2010-11 season, Bosh averaged 22.82 points per contest on 15.9 field-goal attempts. He finished with one of the league’s top 10 scoring averages during each of his last three campaigns for the Raptors and never played fewer than 36 minutes per game. As a classic big in an offense centered around him, 97.5 percent of the shots he took were two-pointers, and nearly a third (31.94 percent) were attempted from within three feet.
In 2005-06, Bosh finished 15th in player efficiency rating (PER), a stat which assesses a players’ positive and negative results/outcomes to determine their per-minute impact. His score (23.23) placed him slightly ahead of surefire Hall of Famer Tim Duncan (23.19). Bosh (24.23) was No. 6 in 2007-08, right behind Dirk Nowitzki (24.78), who’s got to be as sure a shot for enshrinement as the hook on Gang Starr’s “DWYCK,” and ahead of the ninth-rated Duncan (24.05). During the best statistical season of his career—2009-10, his last as a Raptor—Bosh’s PER (25.11) was the fourth-best in the league and the highest among post players.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work (2010-14)
Becoming the Sheek Louch to James’ Jadakiss and Wade’s Styles P. as a free agent before the 2009-10 season inevitably meant fewer opportunities on offense for Bosh.
In the four years the triumvirate was together, which included four straight trips to the Finals, Bosh had to sacrifice significantly more than his superstar counterparts. Only once did he play more than 36 minutes (36.1 in 2010-11) and average at least 14 field-goal attempts (14.2 in 2011-12).
Along with those adjustments, Bosh had to become acclimated to operating outside the interior. In order to optimize Wade and James at the peak of their athletic primes, head coach Erik Spoelstra concocted a position-less brand of buddy ball (a predecessor to what’s widely referred to as “small ball”), and Bosh fully embraced it for the betterment of the team.
From 2010 through 2014, a mere 27.7 percent of Bosh’s shots came from zero to three feet from the hoop. Nonetheless, he enjoyed the finest shooting season of his career by hitting 53.5 percent of his looks from the field and scoring 16.6 points per game in 2012-13, when the Heat won their second of back-to-back titles.
In 2013-14, the Big Three’s last season together, Bosh’s 3.5 post touches per game ranked No. 42 among centers, a position Basketball Reference estimates he played 79 percent of the time. However, he was third in the league with 1.194 points per touch in the post. His 3.3 touches in the paint were 37th at his position, yet he ranked fourth in the NBA with 1.17 points whenever he got the ball in that area.
That’s why Spoelstra and James frequently referred to Bosh as the Heat’s most important player.
Re-Up, Retool (2014-16)
With James going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of the 2014-15 season, Bosh was ready to turn up like never before in Miami. He signed a five-year, $118-million deal to remain with the Heat and immediately went about the business of reminding the rest of the league what he was capable of producing as an alpha dog.
He’d already begun expanding his game beyond the arc, attempting a career-high 218 three-pointers in 2013-14 (almost three times more than his previous career-high of 74 in 2012-13) and connecting at a 33.9 percent clip. But now he was set to take his game to an entirely different level, making the transition from a “finesse 4” tailor-made for Spoelstra’s offense to the prototypical, highly-coveted stretch power forward that’s all the rage in many of today’s offenses.
In 44 games before a blood clot found in his lungs ended his season in February 2015, Bosh averaged 21.1 points on 16.9 attempts per game—his highest marks in a Heat uniform. Close to a quarter (22.6 percent) of his field-goal attempts were three-pointers after never having taken more than 8.2 percent of his shots from deep. His 37.5 three-point percentage equaled James Harden and eclipsed the likes of Kevin Love (36.7) and Gordon Hayward (36.4).
He was on the same tip when he returned to play 53 games in 2015-16, averaging 19.1 points on 46.7 shooting from the field, including 36.5 from three-point range. The Heat were 29-24, fifth in the East, when a blood clot in his leg forced him to miss the rest of the season.
Bosh didn’t always play how fans and analysts would’ve liked.
“What do you call a power forward that averages six rebounds a game? A small forward,” Charles Barkley once famously joked in reference to the big man’s game. Bosh confronted lightning-rod sports TV personality Skip Bayless face-to-face for repeatedly calling him “Bosh Spice,” and we won’t even begin to talk about the myriad GIFs and memes of his facial expressions that questioned his manhood.
His body of work is still banging like a bass line.
His ability to adapt his style of play to put his team in the best possible position to win every night is why he was an integral part of a pair of championship squads, as well as one of the best post players to ever lace up a pair of mid-tops. The Heat have already decided to do right by his Bosh, announcing they’ll retire his No. 1 jersey in Miami. When his time comes, the Hall of Fame should honor him his as well…with no hesitation.
Follow Nick on Twitter @Birds_Word.