The Washington Post

With a master class in closure, Bosh owned the Hall of Fame stage

- BEN GOLLIVER ben.golliver@washpost.com

Chris Bosh stole the show Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame enshrineme­nt ceremony, though it was hard to shake the thought that he shouldn’t have been there at all.

Of course, the Olympic gold medalist, two-time NBA champion and 11-time all-star was a deserving selection. While Bosh was subjected to mockery and nitpicking throughout his prime — chatter that was largely influenced by his decision to team up with Lebron James and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat — there was no debating his worthiness. The Texas native averaged more than 20 points per game six times, was a franchise player for the Toronto Raptors and made an effortless transition to become an ideal third option for the Heat.

When anti-“heatles” sentiment peaked, Bosh took flak for floating to the perimeter on offense and for not being a traditiona­l big-bodied center on defense. But Bosh should be remembered as a key bridge between big men such as Shaquille O’neal and Tim Duncan and the current generation led by Giannis Antetokoun­mpo and Anthony Davis. As effective as Bosh was in the early 2010s, he would have been even more devastatin­g and respected if his prime years had coincided with the “pace and space” era, which demands versatilit­y and agility from bigs. He was ahead of his time.

That’s also why Bosh felt out of place on the stage in Springfiel­d. At 37, he is simply too young. His Hall classmates are all much older: Paul Pierce is 43, Ben Wallace is 47, Chris Webber is 48, and Toni Kukoc is 52. Their memories were from bygone eras: Webber harked back to the Fab Five days at Michigan, Kukoc recalled facing Michael Jordan’s Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics, and Pierce namechecke­d Rick Pitino, his long-ago Boston Celtics coach.

Bosh, meanwhile, pulled out a championsh­ip ring that was gifted to him by Heat President Pat Riley during his 2010 free agency recruitmen­t, then returned the hardware with gratitude for Miami’s 2012 and 2013 titles. The gesture was perhaps the ceremony’s most memorable moment, but the summer of “The Decision” still feels fresh. James is still constructi­ng superteams and chasing titles, and Riley just landed Kyle Lowry, another former Raptors star, this offseason.

Armed with nimble feet, a sweet shooting stroke and a team-first mentality, Bosh should still be playing key minutes for a title contender. Like James and Carmelo Anthony, Bosh would be ramping up for Year 19 if not for blood clots that cut short his career in 2016 at 31. Imagine the recruiting war that would have erupted last month between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets if Bosh were healthy.

There are countless what-ifs to ponder. Does Wade ever leave Miami for the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers if Bosh is still playing? Would Bosh’s presence have altered the Heat’s retooling effort around Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo? Might Bosh have found his way to the Houston Rockets after years of rumors and helped James Harden get over the hump? Would Bosh have linked up with James on the Lakers and snagged another ring in 2020?

To Bosh’s great credit, he didn't appear consumed by hypothetic­als and missed opportunit­ies, finding solace with his wife and five children during his forced early retirement.

“After working as hard as I could, the training, the practices, the weight sessions, the film, going back at night to work on my game,” he said, “after finally making it to the mountainto­p with so much more to do in my mind, so much more to prove, suddenly it all stopped. . . . In going through those crossroads, I eventually came to realize that we all have it in our power to make the most of every day. Despite what happens, [we have the power] to turn setbacks into strengths.”

A vulnerable Bosh wrapped up his speech — the last one of the night — by recounting moments that made him cry: He was bullied by childhood classmates for wearing an untrendy jersey; he lost a key game in the high school playoffs; his Heat was upset by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Finals; and he received the career-ending diagnosis during a doctor’s visit.

“I like to think that all of those tears . . . weren’t endings,” he said. “They were beginnings. They weren’t moments that made me want to stop working. They were moments that made me want to work even harder. When I think about it, they were more than tears. They were the water that made it possible for the seeds of greatness inside me to grow.”

Although Bosh arrived at the Hall of Fame many years too early, he made it clear that he has had enough time to come to terms with his profession­al heartbreak. His expertly delivered speech was a master class in closure.

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