Miami Heat's Chris Bosh is an Outlier

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When the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to win the 2010-11 championship, Chris Bosh couldn’t even make it to the Heat’s locker room. The anguish of defeat caused him to drop to his knees in an exhausted, sweaty heap of emotion, even though his body surely wanted to make it to a more private place to rehash what had happened. Almost four years (and two championships later), it’s Bosh’s body that’s getting in the way of his emotional need to play basketball. Chris Bosh is unique within the pro sports universe: Bosh is a left-handed seven-footer who shoots better than most guards, a guy who has made it clear that loyalty and winning trump money and publicity, and is also someone who exhibits an inordinate amount of self-awareness (and sense of humor) for any human being, much less a pro athlete – a career that requires one to have a heightened sense of self. But Bosh isn’t your typical athlete. The Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh is an outlier.

At the All-Star break this season, Chris Bosh was a late drop for the Eastern squad. The reason being that it was discovered he was experiencing blood clots in one of his calves. Bosh missed the second half of last season when he went through the same thing, only then the blood clots moved from his calf muscle to his lungs.

For the Heat’s part, it seems like they’re advising Bosh to take the rest of the year off and focus on his health, On the flip side, Bosh wants nothing more than to play for the Heat again this season. Due to medical privacy issues (and because Miami is one of the more tight-lipped organizations in sports), there has been precious little information released on his condition since the initial diagnosis. It also makes it a bit murky when the sports media is digging around an athlete’s medical records for a non-sports issue. Though it would probably be safe to assume Bosh won’t be back this season, he’s technically only listed as day-to-day.

The main concern for Bosh is that the blood clots have required him to resume taking blood thinners, as he did last season. Doctors and trainers won’t let an athlete on blood thinners play because any sprain, cut, or head injury could result in an excessive amount of blood loss due to the active medication. It’s also not the best thing for Bosh to continue to travel while dealing with this ailment.

Doctors have speculated that part of the reason why the clots returned (or why they occurred the first time) was that air travel is hard on giant human beings, and given that lots and lots of air travel is necessary for Bosh to do his job, so much time in the sky could have affected Bosh’s body’s circulation. Being so big puts one’s body under an incredible amount of stress, even in the most ordinary situations. Bosh’s blood clot issue from last year was, in part, made worse because he spent so much time on an airplane, in a sitting position, which make the body’s normal circulation more difficult.

Back when Bosh went to Miami, he knew that he was third on the totem pole. For as much coverage as the Heat got during their “Big Three” run, it was Bosh who not only got the least amount of attention, but also the one who made the biggest sacrifices in the name of team success. Bosh’s duty was to plug the holes on offense and defense, not to hoard absurd numbers in the box score, as he did in Toronto.

As if receiving the least amount of credit for team successes while making the biggest sacrifices wasn’t enough, Bosh also dealt with knowing that if the Heat’s blueprint were to fail, he’d be the first one shipped out of town, and it would have been as much his fault as anybody else. Yet after LeBron James left, and Bosh’s time came where he could bolt, he remained loyal to Pat Riley and the Miami Heat management.

Since then, as the Heat continue to change the personnel around Bosh, it’s he who is always the first to alter his game to adapt, yet he still continually meets his per game careers averages of 19.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and two assists.

Bosh’s game is perhaps the most malleable of any superstar; he can play the perimeter or the post, he can score thirty or finish a game with eight or nine assists, he’s constantly assessing what his team needs, and provides it. The manner in which Bosh can alter his game on the fly disproves most of the problems people see in today’s me-first athlete(s).

Moreover, speaking in more general terms, we should be praising the sports gods that more medical cases like Bosh’s don’t come up, particularly in basketball. It’s the sport in which players spend the most time in an airplane, and the one in which most people who have won the genetic lottery in the height department gravitate to. During the evolution of the human body, the goal was to make something optimized for survival, not to create seven footers who can hit a contested corner three.

Fortunately for Bosh, even if he can’t come back this season, it appears that his career will continue, others haven’t been so lucky.

It isn’t even just the risk of blood clots that can alter the careers of these huge humans. Does the name Isaiah Austin ring a bell? If not, he was the Baylor big man who, a few years ago, would’ve been a sure-fire draft pick (maybe even a lottery pick), but his NBA career was disassembled before it got started because it was deemed too dangerous for Austin to play due to a condition called “Marfan syndrome.” Specifically, Austin’s eyes were affected, but the condition in general can take multiple forms. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “Marfan syndrome most commonly affects the heart, eyes, blood vessels and skeleton.” Interestingly, the overview continues with information regarding who is most susceptible to Marfan, and explains that “People with Marfan syndrome are usually tall and thin with disproportionately long arms, legs, fingers and toes.”

Again: This disorder took Austin’s career. And “tall and thin” people who have “disproportionately long arms, legs, fingers, and toes” are most prone. By definition, it should be mildly surprising that pretty much every NBA player ever – aside from the ones with nicknames like “Mugsy” and “Spud” – wasn’t afflicted with Marfan.

It’s quite possible that the modern-day athletes assembled together by professional sports are collectively better at their jobs than anybody else on the planet, and that the product overall should be the envy of any contemporary business operation. At every spot along the way, athletes get weeded out. There’s no room for favors: no son of a CEO undeservedly falling into an NBA roster spot, no trust fund babies conning their way into a job their under-qualified for.

Conversely, we forget how fragile the ecosystem can be. While we’re inundated with “hot takes” and constant over-analysis, we forget we’re watching giant human beings do things that giant human beings shouldn’t be able to do (not to mention the fact that, on a fundamental level, humans aren’t supposed to be that size). Nonetheless, those giant men endured and survived giant obstacles along the way.

When we watch the NBA, we’re watching a collection of human outliers, a league of exceptions to the evolutionary rule. The players we watch carry burdens and risks that the more ordinary amongst us rarely think about. The Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh is an outlier, even in an occupation where being an outlier is not only the norm, but a requirement.

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