America is once again laughing at and mocking the pain of LeBron James. Two year's worth of I-had-to-shut-up fan resentment burst out as if rodeo-bull were uncaged the moment James looked vulnerable while spasming and incapacitated in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It was amazing and maybe without precedent, how fast this happened to a reigning king, a Twitter-refreshed blur revealing just how little two championships had bought James in an ecosystem in which winning usually forgives all. The Discovery Channel could have done a documentary on this in the wild, the way hungry fans sharpened teeth and pounced on prey at the first scent of possible weakness atop of the NBA's food chain.
But before addressing this newest noise in the life of the Miami Heat and its biggest star, let us understand the cauldron where this team has lived for four years ... and how it can change, shape and harden people in ways that the teeth-sharpening hunters might not have anticipated while circling and howling.
Let us go back a series, to the end of Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers, when Chris Bosh had the season of the hated Indiana Pacers in his hands, and he missed the game-winning shot, disappointing the city of Miami and his teammates. He was trusted with all the season's work and all the game's work at the end, and he failed. That kind of thing can be haunting and ...
"Haunting?" Bosh spits. "Hell no."
Nationally, Bosh is the most picked-on member of the Heat. He is not fragile, at all, but he is viewed that way by America because he is honest and thoughtful and introspective and comfortable with his vulnerabilities, and we figure out ways to turn those strengths into weaknesses in the caveman grunting that sometimes passes for sports analysis these days.
Bosh couldn't laugh at the idea of this four years ago, couldn't even understand it, but now he is undeterred and bejeweled, so he says through an easy smile, "I'm easy to pick on. People love hammering me. It hurt at first. It is cruel. The world is cruel. But I grew up quick. Learned a lot real quick. Had to. You either get stronger or you wilt."
Evolution weeds out weakness, but it also sharpens strength, and Bosh champions in a place that is survival of the fittest, so that shot went up at the end of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals, and it bounced away with Indiana celebrating, and you know what Bosh's reaction was? It was a little weird and a lot surprising. And it was a result of the cauldron where Miami has resided the past four years, lava hardening whatever it touches in time when heat and Heat cools. Bosh didn't feel huge disappointment or crushing failure or lonely hurt, oddly enough. What he felt afterward was gratitude and acceptance and something pretty damn close to serenity.
"It was the shot I wanted," he says. "It was the opportunity I wanted. I live with that. I slept like a baby that night. We've had so many games where we are successful and not successful. That helps. We've been at this awhile. I relished that opportunity. I'll take the baggage that comes with failing as long as I can be in that situation. No problem. I want that situation. I'll take the success, and I'll take the failure. I'll take what comes because I just wanted to be in that situation, in this situation."