‘Now it’s time to swim!’ Bosh’s decision pulled things together for Heat

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MIAMI (AP)—In Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat got a power forward and a power broker.

Sure, Heat president Pat Riley pulled together the deal, Dwyane Wade had a county renamed in his honor and the anticipation of LeBron James’ decision turned into a drama unlike anything the NBA has likely ever seen.

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SOUTH BEACH THREE-FOR-ALL—LeBron James (6), Dwyane Wade (3) and Chris Bosh (1) show off their Miami Heat jerseys at American Airlines Arena in Miami, July 9. To the right is Miami Heat owner Micky Arison.

But the first domino that fell into place was Bosh—and if he went elsewhere, the other two stars almost surely would have as well.

It went down like this: Bosh told Wade he wanted to play in Miami, which immediately convinced the 2006 NBA finals MVP to spurn Chicago’s offer and stay with the Heat. About 48 hours later, Wade got a call from James, telling him it’d be a South Beach three-for-all.

However long Bosh stays with the Heat, he may never have a more significant assist.

“I think it was more of a collective effort,” Bosh said. “I know these two guys. They have to make their own decisions. There was no point where we asked each other to, ‘OK, we’re going to talk and we’re all going to go here.’ We have to play in the best positions for our families, for ourselves, and for our careers.

“And Miami was the obvious choice.”

Not until Bosh made up his mind, it wasn’t.

Wade was absolutely torn by the decision between Chicago and Miami, so much so that he asked family members to write down their top choices—and that didn’t even break the tie between his hometown and the city where he’s starred for seven years. He told the Heat the only way he would stay put is if they landed Bosh or James.

Bosh had a half-dozen offers, but knew the only way he’d get to play with two superstars was by coming to Miami. So he took his leap of Heat faith.

“When Chris told me that,” Wade said, “it all just came together.”

James eventually completed the trifecta—three of the top five choices from the 2003 draft—that will surely be the talk of the NBA for years to come.

In Miami, the start of the free-agent period was called “We Want Wade” week, including a move by officials to ceremonially rename the county from Miami-Dade to Miami-Wade. By week’s end, the Heat got Wade and a whole lot more.

“There’s no question about it, they become the favorites along with Boston to win the East,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “The East has certainly gotten better. It’s not getting any easier. You have three guys, All-Stars, in the prime of their career. That’s a heckuva team to match up against.”

The possibilities are endless, already getting scrawled on the white boards in Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s office.

Wade at shooting guard, James at small forward, Bosh at power forward. Each routinely sees double-teams, and that will continue. But unless the NBA starts allowing Miami opponents to play with at least six guys, then Wade, James and Bosh all can’t have two defenders draped around them at once.

That’s where Bosh could flourish, those around him say.

“When Chris was in high school, he didn’t even say he was the best player on his team,” said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who had Bosh on his team for one year before the then-teenager jumped to the NBA. “And they went 40-0 and won a national championship. That’s who he is. It’s not about who gets credit for what.”

Playing in Toronto wasn’t exactly been a path to superstardom for Bosh. The Raptors—who have ravenous fans in their own city—simply haven’t drawn much attention in the United States, mainly because of a lack of postseason success (Bosh has never reached the second round of the NBA playoffs) and that they’re just not on television as much as the glitzier clubs.

That’ll change now. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas already are saying the Heat are favorites to win the 2011 NBA title.

“Just with us coming together, it’s going to be out there,” Bosh said of the immediate pressure to win. “So we just have to be prepared for that and we have to stay behind each other, keep each other standing tall and just support each other and that’s all it’s about. When you’re having tough times, you rely on your friends; you rely on your teammates to pull you out of it.”

Bosh might only seem like the “other guy” in this Heat star cluster.

No, he doesn’t have the MVP trophies like James and the championship ring like Wade. Make no mistake: He can play.

Bosh is one of only three players with at least 10,000 points, 4,500 rebounds and 600 blocked shots over the last seven seasons, joining Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. He’s averaged a double-double in three of his seven years, and coming off a season where he put up career-highs of 24.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 52 percent shooting.

And James is already letting Miami know, this team isn’t being built as a one- or two-man operation.

“This is not just all about D-Wade and C.B. and LeBron,” James said. “It’s about the whole team. It’s about the whole organization, starting from the top to the bottom.”

Bosh has been at the bottom for too long, never getting remotely close to an NBA title.

In Miami, thanks to his decision, he’s got that long-awaited chance to finally see the top.

“We just have to take that chance,” Bosh said. “And we were not afraid to be great. So we’ve jumped in the water. Now it’s time to swim.”

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