Ethan J. Skolnick

Ethan J. Skolnick: Miami Heat’s triumphs have been tempered by run of misfortune

Former Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning, left, and current forward Chris Bosh have both dealt with serious medical issues while playing for the team.
Former Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning, left, and current forward Chris Bosh have both dealt with serious medical issues while playing for the team. AP

It’s not clear when the myth was first made, the myth that the Heat has always had it made.

The belief, in some corners of the country, that the Miami basketball franchise always gets what it wants, a myth that became a monster in the summer of 2010 when Pat Riley got the generational player everyone wanted, and another guy who’d been toiling for Toronto, but was rather coveted in his own right.

That myth has existed even after Allan Houston’s runner rattled in, even after Dwyane Wade’s pulled his rib cage during the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals, even after Chicago lottery-jumped Miami in 2008 for the right to draft Derrick Rose. And even when the myth recedes, ever-so-briefly, it comes back in fuller force whenever Anthony Carter’s agent fails to file extension paperwork or Justise Winslow slips to No. 10.

But, maybe now, after this latest medical setback for Chris Bosh and the franchise he has so elegantly represented for the past six years, the myth finally fades.

Riley has a series of pet sayings you may know quite well.

You also are likely familiar with Alonzo Mourning, a player whom Riley recently and remarkably said he thinks of first among all those he’s coached. While serving as the Heat’s centerpiece before — and in spirit, even after — he was stricken with a serious kidney disease, Mourning parroted many of those phrases regularly.

There was one in particular that Mourning seemed to recite the most, one credited originally to Albert Einstein, one that began to embody Mourning’s entire Heat experience:

“Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

Adversity introduces an organization to itself, too.

And while the Heat’s predicament shouldn’t be anyone’s primary concern today — not when compared to the potential long-term ramifications of Bosh’s second blood clot episode in roughly a year, after he’d spoken so often about his limited risk of recurrence — the team’s run of misfortune can’t be entirely ignored either.

After all, for all of his interests and talents, as coder, brewer, actor, traveler, dresser, reader, video-bomber, Spanish-speaker and even Ms. Pacman player, the world knows about Chris Bosh largely because of what he can do on a court.

The Heat invested lavishly in Bosh during that summer 2010, and he repaid in kind, sacrificing so much of his game and self, even at the cost of public ridicule — stretching his limits, whether rushing to return from an abdominal injury during the 2012 postseason run, or expanding his range to the three-point line, or exhausting himself to blitz opponents’ pick-and-rolls.

Then, in summer of the 2014, with two championships earned but LeBron James exiting, Miami couldn’t risk calling Bosh’s bluff, choosing to pay Bosh well over the top of Houston’s offer.

No one could know then that this would happen now. Bosh had been exceedingly healthy over his career. Even this season, coming off last February’s life-altering trauma — the blood clot in his lung that he believed started from a strain in his calf — Bosh was the only Heat player to play in all 53 games.

He was over it, it seemed, repeatedly insisting that apparent milestones — first preseason game, first regular season game, one-year anniversary —were a bigger deal to reporters than to him.

“I just put all that stuff behind me,” Bosh said after last Monday’s practice, prior to the final game before the All-Star break. “Once I was free of it, once I stopped having pain, I was like, well, OK, I’ll just forget about this. Not forget about it. But remember it, OK, but I’m out the door. Hopefully, I won’t be back here again. I’ll rest up at home. I appreciate everything more. But that’s really it. I never really think about it, it’s a year ago, or 10 months ago.”

Well, he is back here again.

The Heat is back here again. Back where it was on Feb. 19, 2015, a day that brought back to October 2000, when — after Riley had reshuffled the roster with Eddie Jones and Brian Grant and Anthony Mason around Mourning — the 30-year-old center, coming off his best season, was diagnosed with kidney disease.

“Yeah, it was the same, same thing,” Riley told me, softly, late last February. “We’d worked for a couple of weeks thinking about all of these players that were going to be available.... We didn’t make the trade call [with the league] until about 7:30. About 5:30, I got the call from [Dr.] Harlan [Selesnick] what Chris had. Even before the trade call, I knew, I didn’t tell anybody, except I told Nick [Arison] about it. And we were just stunned, absolutely just stunned. More concerned for his health, you know.”

As he and the Heat are now, for sure. As everyone should be. Still, with the trade deadline coming at 3 p.m. Thursday and Riley now forced to re-shape the team again amid uncertainty about a player who has become essential and beloved, it’s hardly the time to tell the Heat how lucky it is.

Ethan J. Skolnick: 305-376-3483, @ethanjskolnick

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