LeBron James had failed in his attempt to match the Shaq-Kobe Dynasty Lakers teams of the early 2000’s and three-peat with the Miami Heat’s Big Three. He did reach four-straight Eastern Conference Finals and won half of them. However, the Finals loss to the Spurs was the perfect opening for him to make another quick dash.
Like a thief in the night, he jumped ship and high-tailed it back to Cleveland to be re-embraced by his hometown and viewed as a city savior. In the process, he deflected and avoided the criticism he would face with another failed championship quest in Miami. He did after all promise seven ch’ips. And for all intents and purposes, the height of Big Three-mania seemed to have passed.
While LeBron’s power move was applauded by most basketball people outside of Miami, his move wasn’t completely void of some back stabbing. As James attempts to form another Big Three in Cleveland, he leaves Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh alone to defend the East.
With Wade looking like he was one twisted knee from retirement for the last three years and Bosh seemingly reserved to an aging perimeter player under the ball-dominant LBJ regime, nobody gave them a shot to be an elite squad without The King. Factor in LeBron's firm grasp on the hearts and souls of major network execs and announcers and most people assumed the cameras wouldn't shine on the leftovers of what was once the dopest three-course meal in the NBA's talent restaurant.
Wade’s scoring declined each season as part of The Big Three, from a robust 25.5 points per game in LeBron’s first season to 19.0 ppg last season, his lowest since averaging 16.2 ppg in his rookie year of 2003-04. Word on the streets was Wade had lost more than a step and with his knee troubles; we were witnessing the slow but painful deterioration of a basketball treasure.
Bosh was a 20-10 general in seven seasons carrying an under-talented Toronto Raptors squad on his 6-10, 228-pound back. He entered his contract with Miami knowing that he would be the third scoring option on most nights. Like Wade, Bosh’s scoring averages declined each season as a member of the Big Three and bottomed out at a 16.2 ppg last season. People credited Bosh with scaling back his game, throwing superstardom to the side to win back-to-back ch’ips and become a “role” player of sorts. He became more of a perimeter scorer who had to get his within an offensive framework designed for LBJ and Wade to take the bulk of the shots.
On some nights, his scoring services simply weren’t needed and he had to do the dirty work usually reserved for washed up vets and fringe players; complimentary parts if you will.
With Lebron gone, nobody expected the Heat to be a force in the East. When they added the skills of Loul Deng and his 16.7 ppg, it definitely improved their talent base, but the loss of LeBron and the “declining” performances of the Heat’s remaining stars didn’t make a fifth-consecutive Eastern Conference Finals run a betting man’s proposition.
Then the season started and all of a sudden The Big Two seemed to find the fountain of youth. It’s really a lesson to fans and media, who assume things when analyzing sports because they deal with surface issues and fail to look beyond the numbers when drawing conclusions about players.
Playing with LeBron James— as Kyrie Irving is quickly finding out—is about sacrificing your game in exchange for winning big and becoming a part of LBJ’s unmatched basketball mastery.
The way LeBron so thoroughly dominates the game on both ends of the ball and mentally, draws a clear pecking order on the floor. The Big Bird eats first and then everyone else has to scramble for crumbs. But if you pick those crumbs at the right time as Wade and Bosh did, then LBJ actually makes playing the game easier for his teammates. So easy at times, that he seems to be the only guy on the court worth watching.
Bosh got caught in that matrix during what will be forever known as "The LeBron Era" in Miami. Over time, his unselfishness and team-first attitude became confused as weakness. And instead of focusing on his subtle, clutch magnificence as a baller, he became the brunt of social media jokes and outlandish and offensive discussions concerning his sexual preferences. Looking back, it was all silly and shows how sharp and powerful a task-focused force Bosh truly is.
With Miami playing excellent ball and in the thick of the early Eastern Conference race with a 5-4 record, Wade and Bosh are doing more than keeping Pat Riley’s fractured juggernaut relevant and respectable. This was supposed to be the ultimate drop off year for Wade. Without LBJ to facilitate the rock and do the bulk of the heavy lifting, Wade’s lost mobility and lack of outside game was supposed to make this his worst year ever. Instead, Wade is averaging almost 20 points per game and shooting 45.5% from three-point range.
His previous high was 31.7 % in 2008-09 season. Bosh’s return to a No. 1 scoring option has been effortless. His game, which looked so pedestrian at times over the past half decade has re-entered All-Star territory. He’s averaging a strong 21.6 ppg and more than nine rebounds per game for the first time since his last season with Toronto when he averaged 10.8.
These guys are spitting in the face of suckers who thought they were riding LBJ’s coat tails towards the end of their dynastic run. Regardless of how this season ends up for Miami (who I feel has a good shot to end up in the ECF) it will do a lot towards getting Bosh and Wade the retroactive credit they deserve for the success of the Miami Heat during what will be known as “The LeBron Era.”
It’s like when New Edition broke up and everybody had banging solo albums. Despite the loss of lead singers Ralph Tresvant and Bobby Brown, BBD was able to floss their skills with some classic joints like Poison and When Will I See You Smile Again. Then, when Bobby Brown left for good, the group was able to plug in Johnny Gill, just as the Heat has plugged in Loul Deng and their group was still formidable.
The less-heralded members of the group were able to display their talents out from under the shadow of the lead singers. What we found out was that New Edition was a colossally successful group because all five members had tremendous talent in specific areas. Some cats just have the golden voice and therefore they get to stand in front.
Bosh is obviously nowhere near done and he has reassumed the burden of being the top stunner-- on the Heat. As humble, workman-like and quiet as he’s been on the subject, he’s got to feel like a winner, because he sacrificed, won, was told he was a shell of his former self and proved to everybody that he's really a borderline genius.
That’s why he had the gall to consider himself a lock for the Hall of Fame. He knows that in an era where guys can’t even share locker room space because their egos won’t fit in the same vicinity,"he checked his ego at the door" as Quincy Jones told the all-star lineup of singers that entered the iconic producers' studio to create the classic, We Are the World in 1985.
Bosh chilled for four years as the “other guy” and probably earned himself four more years and another huge contract as “the” guy before his career ends.
Bosh's seamless return to top shotta status clarifies the confusion about his impact on The Big Three's South Beach circus. To the uninformed and easily impressionable eye it was all about the new Magic Johnson. In reality, Miami was loaded with talent and didn’t mind letting one guy hog all the glory. That’s the true meaning of team. Now that the modern-day Magic is gone, however, don't expect Bosh to keep playing James Worthy. In fact, he has a Hall of Fame resume to make good on and so far, his flame game this season is torching suckas back to reality.