One week ago, the news hit like a well-placed kick to the nether regions.
Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat’s best player and the last remaining member of the fabled Big Three, had failed his physical. His anticipated comeback was off.
There was ‘no timetable for his return,’ the Heat said. If those words appeared ambiguous, Heat president Pat Riley swiftly, bluntly, coldly extinguished any room for interpretation.
Bosh was suddenly done in Miami. Six years, four finals, two titles and countless happy memories cruelly truncated by a third occurrence of blood clots.
It has left Bosh feeling angry, betrayed and vowing to continue his career with one of the 29 other NBA teams. An ugly situation is becoming uglier by the day.
Yet, if the sadness and frustration at Bosh’s plight was pervasive across South Florida sports fans last week, it took less than 48 hours for a sobering perspective to arrive, following the tragic loss of Miami Marlins pitching ace Jose Fernandez.
That offered a reason to mourn in the truest sense of the word.
Given the likelihood his condition can be managed, Chris Bosh should be just fine with or without basketball. I’d attest there’s not an athlete in sports better equipped for the challenges presented by early retirement.
On the surface, his financial future is incredibly secure. A $76 million parachute payment is due, should he follow the advice of doctors and retire from basketball.
Bosh’s off-court interests are well documented. He is an avid programmer, an inquisitive traveller, a blogger, a craft beer enthusiast and a musician. He has a successful fashion line. Just recently, the Uninterrupted videos have shown a natural knack for writing and directing.
Family man Bosh has always seemed such an unlikely candidate to follow the unhappy path of athletes who retire to discover they have nothing outside of the sport they’ve always lived for. He just has too much going for him.
Bosh will not be short of opportunities in retirement, if that proves to be his lot.
He’s sharp, funny, articulate, insightful, engaging, entertaining and has one hell of a smile. As one of the most likeable figures in the game, there seems little doubt a new career as a top analyst would be in the offing should he desire.
Career wise, even at 32, Bosh leaves little on the table. His legacy is secured. He has his rings and there’s no Dan Marino-style ‘never won the big one’ asterisk against his name. There are only 50 players with more All-Star appearances. A place in the Hall of Fame is all but assured.
He may have been robbed of five more years at the top, but he had thirteen. Bosh fulfilled his most of his potential, Jose Fernandez will not.
That’s not to say one desperate sporting tragedy should completely offset another athlete’s misfortune.
Right now, it is abundantly clear how much this latest setback is hurting Bosh. His public statements have displayed sorrow, frustration, resentment and resilience in almost equal measures. As displayed in the latest Uninterrupted video, he remains convinced this isn’t the end.
For coaches and teammates, it’s a bitter loss for a young team – already without one talisman in Dwyane Wade. Winslow, Whiteside, Johnson and Richardson would have all gained immensely from Bosh’s temperament and big game experience.
For Heat fans it’s tough to see yet another acrimonious breakup with a truly beloved star, which offers absolutely for a different role down the line. As Bosh himself said on Friday, “they deserve better.”
While you’ll hear it a lot, it is impossible to criticize Bosh for seeking to find a way, any way, to get back on the court while he believes there’s a way to do it safely.
That otherworldly desire and single-mindedness that top professional athletes are praised for during their entire careers shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat them with when the moral majority decides it’s time to quit.
Bosh’s lack of immediate acceptance has led to accusations he is not thinking about his family. Even if he cannot come back, most folks are afforded a chance to let illness-induced realities set in. Why shouldn’t it be the case here?
It’s sad to think we’ll never see Bosh in a Heat jersey again; sadder still that it is coming to an end with so much animosity between player and team, who shared great, great times together.
But we can’t forget that before fearing for his career, it is not so long ago we feared for Chris Bosh’s life, which, as the tragedy involving Fernandez’s family and the Miami Marlins have proved, is far, far more important.