Chris Bosh: An Allegory to Life

Commentary

Life is frail. It’s something we don’t think about often, but we’re constantly reminded of. Two years ago, Chris Bosh was arguably one of the best 15 players in his sport and Miami had just traded for Goran Dragic. Suddenly, they went all in and were gunning for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Then news broke, Chris Bosh had a potentially fatal blood clot in his lungs, and the rest spiraled out of control. This story is allegorical and symbolic about how cruel and how uncertain life is. Literally, one second you are again a title contender, and the next you question if tomorrow is something you’d even see.

Enter September of 2016, as training camp nears while Chris Bosh and the Miami HEAT are in the midst of perhaps, the most passive-aggressive public relations war in all of sports. Bosh wants to play and the HEAT don’t want to clear him—but that’s an oversimplification.

Bosh wanting to play confuses people. He, throughout his career, has projected a self that seemed very equip to handle life after basketball. Not only is he publicly passionate about his family but he has so many interests outside of basketball. He is well-read, wants to learn how to write code, blogs about food, has expressed a profound love for music and wants to brew craft beers. He is unique in the hyper-aggressive competition ecosystem that is professional sports—to not be incredibly lopsided.

So with a guaranteed $76 million left on his contract, fans and perhaps even the HEAT would be confused by why this particular person who seemed so well-versed and ready for life after basketball would want to risk his life playing. Playing with clots is obviously dangerous and playing on blood thinners is just as bad. NBA and team doctors won’t clear him to play and Bosh has been desperately searching for a way on the court in spite of his health.

But why? And I think the why is something that isn’t easily expressed and it’s what separates professional athletes from their fans—more than the financial rift or the fame or the notoriety. It’s the feeling of competition at the highest level; it’s the heightened sense of existence when on the court. But something the constituency of these players might not fully understand.

What comes to mind is Bosh collapsing to tears after the HEAT’s Game 6 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. Despite all the discourse about Bosh not being lopsided, we seem to forget how much he cares; how competition and the desire to exist in that space of heightened existence would distort someone even as level-headed as Chris Bosh.

It’s such a human feeling. Bosh has spent his entire life defying odds. At every turn, he has proved people wrong. His professional life has been akin to that: High draft pick who had stellar numbers but never did true winning. He then attached himself to two of the twenty greatest players ever and reinvented his game. He became an elite pick-and-roll defender and took his game further and further away from the basket. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals, he had zero points, but played championship defense as Miami won an epic series. When LeBron James left, he had to once again change his game from the third option to a primary offense initiator. He has been successful in nearly everything he has done. But self-awareness doesn’t serve an athlete well. Delusion is their biggest asset. It’s a tool they use to elevate themselves.

So while at first glance it may not make sense, we need to peel back some layers to understand the why. It’s still confusing why he would risk his life to play basketball, especially considering his wife and kids. But Chris Bosh, perhaps, delusionally believes he is fine.

He probably believes that the HEAT want to nudge him into retirement for salary cap reasons, while fans think the HEAT are looking out for his well-being. Doctors won’t clear him, team or league, and the situation has been getting messy. Bosh feels that HEAT are writing him off and the HEAT don’t seem comfortable clearing him. Fans and media howl at who is right or wrong—or start to take sides—when it’s probably a little bit of everything.

It’s just like life. Nothing is absolute and there are degrees to everything. But to understand why things happen are important, especially with someone as layered as Chris Bosh.

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