HOUSTON — The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inducted Chris Bosh into basketball immortality two weeks ago amid the class of 2021. Bosh gave a 17-minute enshrinement speech remembering his legendary 13-year career with the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat.
But as Bosh stood upon the stage recalling the two organizations and teammates that helped him to Springfield, it’s hard not to imagine what the Texas native speech would sound like had he signed with the Houston Rockets in 2014.
After losing the NBA title to the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat’s Big Three was coming to an end. Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James had opted out of their contracts, which allowed Miami’s All-Star trio to be free agents heading into the 2014 offseason. The plan was for the Big Three to re-sign with the Heat, but the idea to return to his hometown became more intriguing to James — as the four-time league MVP signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers that summer.
James’ departure from Miami resulted in Bosh exploring free agency in hopes of keeping his championship window open, and no team looked more auspicious than the Rockets.
After winning 54 games, Houston was coming off their most successful season since 2009. The duo of a young James Harden and a prime Dwight Howard launched the Rockets into championship contention. But it was clear the team was missing something following their first-round exit to the Portland Trail Blazers during the post-season. And then-general manager Daryl Morey believed that something was Bosh.
According to an ESPN report, the Rockets offered the All-Star big man a four-year deal worth $88 million.
Had Bosh signed with the Rockets, his talents would have given Houston arguably the NBA’s most premier Big Three heading into the 2014-15 season. The Rockets would have had more floor spacing — given Bosh’s ability to shoot the three-ball. And Houston would have been the NBA’s best rebounding team in the league, a frontcourt that features the likes of Bosh and Howard.
Bosh’s skillset would have created a match-up problem for nearly every team in the league. But none more so than the Golden State Warriors. Had Bosh signed with the Rockets, it may have prevented the Warriors from starting a five-year run of pure league dominance.
Remember, one of the biggest weapons for the Warriors at the time was their ability to make big men unplayable. Nearly every big man in the league struggled to stay on the court with the Warriors due to their lack of defensive mobility to guard the perimeter and inferior three-point shooting to match that of Golden State. Bosh was the near opposite.
In the two games played against the Warriors in 2015, although the Heat lost by an average margin of 16.0 points, Bosh recorded 26 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 48.6 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from behind the arc.
Given how the 2015 season played out — with Houston winning 56 games — Bosh would have been enough for the Rockets to defeat the Warriors during the Western Conference Finals and the Cavaliers for their first NBA title since 1995. But in reality, the Rockets dodged a significant bullet in their failed pursuit of Bosh.
After Bosh chose to re-sign with the Heat on a max contract, the 11-time All-Star began battling blood clots in February of 2015. The continuous health problems led to an early retirement for Bosh following the 2016 season.
Had the Rockets succeeded in their purpose to sign Bosh, Houston would have never had the opportunity to reap the benefits of their Big Three of Bosh, Harden, and Howard. Bosh’s arrival to Houston in 2014 would have created its own “What If” during his Hall of Fame induction seven years later.