The Hall of Fame Case For Chris Bosh
There are many paths to getting into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Win a lot of championships. Make a lot of All-Star teams. Score a lot of points. No two cases are exactly the same. None of them are about empty statistics.
The most important thing a Hall of Famer has to do is mean something, and Chris Bosh meant something to everyone who cared to take a look and a listen.
It’s fitting that perhaps the two most important moments in Chris Bosh’s career had nothing to do with any of his 17,189 career points. It’s also fitting that his rebound and pass to Ray Allen for the game-tying three in the final seconds of Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, and then his block on Danny Green in overtime, effectively decided whether the HEAT were going to win back-to-back titles or go home empty handed for the second time in three years. Bosh was the difference between winning and losing that night, and so many other nights, because he did the little things. That’s the player he chose to be.
“From a standpoint of statistics he didn’t reach the platforms of other players because in the prime of his career he decided to come here to the big three, win championships and focus on that more so than his individual stats,” Dwyane Wade said.
Looking back, it may have seemed like an obvious choice for Bosh to leave the Toronto Raptors, having just scored 24 points a game in his fifth All-Star season, to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Why not, right? It was still a choice. Bosh chose to give up the mantle of being a No. 1 option. He chose to take less money. He chose a role where he would have to figure out how to fit in with his new teammates, not the other way around, and where it would be just as important that he could get a defensive stop than if he could hit a jumper. To win more, he chose less for himself. For a time it brought only criticism, even for showing just how much he cared.
It was extremely common in those days for Erik Spoelstra to refer to Bosh as the team’s most important player. Where others saw his scoring and rebounding totals shrink, his coach saw the gear in the mechanism. Want to run a hyper-aggressive defensive style that deflated opponent after opponent as turnovers bled into dunks? You needed Bosh’s speed and athleticism. Want to maximize the rim-attacking abilities of James and Wade? You needed Bosh’s intelligence and floor-spacing acumen. Want to win? You needed Bosh.
“In the moments of truth, when you really needed him to be a superstar player, he would remind everybody that, ‘Hey, I still have that kind of ability but I was sacrificing for the betterment of the team,’” Erik Spoelstra said.
As the HEAT won appreciation for Bosh began to spread, though he never appeared to seek it out himself. Always willing to stand at his locker and extoll the virtues of others while patiently answering question after question, you would be hard pressed to design a more ideal teammate for a group that often resembled more of a traveling phenomenon than a regular basketball team. He’s the exact sort of person, much less player, you want representing the league.
Maybe that convinces you, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you need to be sold, and that would be in some ways understandable only because Bosh’s career was unfortunately cut short and he didn’t get to rack up the counting statistics he otherwise would have. But this isn’t a case where the argument needs to be made that his resume would be unimpeachable had he been medically cleared to finish out a career with six or seven more seasons. His resume is already unimpeachable.
He’s getting in.
“He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Spoelstra said.
The simple stuff first. Bosh is an 11-time All-Star. You know how many 11-time All-Stars aren’t either in the Hall of Fame already or headed for it once they retire? None.
How many 10-time All-Stars aren’t in? None.
What about nine-timers? Eight-timers? None in the modern era.
You have to get all the way down to seven-time All-Stars to start finding a player or two who either hasn’t been enshrined or has an argument against them doing so in the near future. Sure, it may be a popularity contest at times to get into the game, but Bosh, never the flashiest player, was only an All-Star starter once. That means 10 times NBA coaches looked around the league and selected him by hand. Those are a legitimate 11 selections.
In fewer than 900 games Bosh posted 106 Win Shares (an amalgamation, of sorts, of all relevant box-score statistics). Only six players have done that since the three-point line was introduced, including Kevin Durant, James Harden and Stephen Curry. They’re all going in. Larry Bird and Adrian Dantley already are.
Over a lengthy peak, Bosh posted nine-straight seasons with Win Shares per 48 minutes topping .150. The only non-Hall of Famers in that group are three-time All-Stars Detlef Schrempf and Larry Nance.
Over 10 years, Bosh’s teams were always at least 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than off. There’s no case for his numbers being empty calories.
It matters, too, that he won Olympic Gold in 2008. It’s the Basketball Hall of Fame, not just the NBA.
Of course the most important section on his resume is going to be the back-to-back championships and four-consecutive trips to the Finals. For four years the HEAT were a historically important team and Bosh was crucial to its success. From Dennis Rodman to Joe Dumars, even further back from James Worthy and Dennis Johnson, major contributors (at the All-Star level) on back-to-back champs are Hall of Famers.
Nevermind that he also played a major role in setting the prototype for the modern big man, stretching his game out mid-career long before it became a league-wide trend all while shifting his minutes more and more to the center position.
He may not have been a Most Valuable Player. It took a little more thought and focus to truly appreciate his impact than it did for his teammates, but for a few years that was our collective failing as purveyors of the sport, not his. He was always important, and you can’t tell the story of basketball between 2003 and 2016 without talking about Bosh.
This is not a matter of whether or not Chris Bosh is a Hall of Famer, merely of how long it takes him to get in.
“He’s a Hall of Famer,” Wade said. “There’s no doubt about it.”