If LeBron James considers himself the easiest target in sports, a person whose every move is spotlighted and dissected, then Chris Bosh knows exactly where he stands in the conga line of criticism.
He's basically riding shotgun next to James, serving as a lieutenant to the Heat superstar.
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"I'm probably the second," Bosh said Sunday night after hitting the go-ahead three-pointer in Miami's 98-96 victory over San Antonio that evened the NBA Finals at 1-1 and gave the Heat home-court advantage leading into Tuesday night's Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Bosh is like a human pinata, constantly getting poked and prodded by naysayers who are critical of the 6-11 forward's game. They say he's not aggressive enough. Gets jump shot- happy. Takes an excruciating number of three-pointers. Doesn't play on the low blocks enough.
Among the Heat's Big Three, Bosh may be the low man on the totem pole of public popularity, trailing James and Dwyane Wade. Let him misfire on a big shot late or fail to leave his mark on a game at any point, and it's as if someone has flipped open the lid on a charcoal grill: Bosh gets barbecued like a slab of ribs.
That really fires up Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
"He's stable, one of the most stable mentally tough guys I've ever been around," Spoelstra said. "That's why it raises the hair on the back of my neck when people question him. He has absolutely championship DNA. It's that mental toughness that comes through because he understands he's going to be criticized from the outside because of how we ask him to play, which is paramount. That's critical for our success."
Bosh's extended range makes him a matchup nightmare for most big men. Choosing to leave him alone on the perimeter to defend the lane can be a deadly decision, as Tim Duncan discovered on Bosh's clutch corner three-pointer that put Miami ahead 95-93 with 1:18 left in Game 2.
It was a different outcome from what occurred in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, when James drove to the basket at the Pacers' Roy Hibbert and passed it to Bosh, who missed a potential game-winner.
"You know, C.B. had just missed one, got a great look," James said after Game 2. "But if I draw two and his man [Duncan] leaves him again, I went right back to him and he knocked it down. I got a lot of confidence in my teammates and they got a lot of confidence in me and we live with the results no matter what happens."
In other words, the critics aren't about to get to James or Bosh despite how things transpire in those tense moments.
"I don't care. That's the main part," Bosh said. "I don't really care about criticism. If it doesn't help me, then I don't listen to it. Throughout my career, it's changed, ever since I've gotten here. But you just have to put that behind you. Everybody gets criticized, and I understand that. I'm not immune to it. To know that that's happened before, I'm not the first, I won't be the last."
"This team won't be the first or the last. Each guy gets picked on. But I think it makes you stronger as a person and I believe in my craft. I work hard at my game and that's all that matters."