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Chris Bosh hasn’t suited up for the Miami Heat since February, when he pulled out of the 2016 NBA All-Star Game amid concerns related to another round of frightening blood-clotting problems that would eventually put a premature end to his season for the second straight year.
But the 11-time All-Star power forward, still “a hooper” at heart, remains intent on getting back on the court this season … and, judging by the latest salvo in his ongoing public campaign, intent on both rallying as much support for his return and making it hard on the Heat to keep him on the shelf.
On Wednesday, Bosh released the first episode of “Rebuilt,” a six-part documentary video series Bosh directed and produced himself for Uninterrupted, ex-Bosh teammate LeBron James’ digital media partnership with Bleacher Report, through which athletes give fans “the uncut, unedited version right then and there of what [their] thoughts are.” The six-plus-minute introduction includes some affecting imagery — we literally see the tubes stuck into Bosh’s ribs to drain the fluid from his chest during his initial hospitalization in 2015, and see him laid out in a hospital bed, tubes in his nose, holding his infant child — and moments of harrowing self-reflection.
“You just kind of think, like: man, is this going to be my life?” Bosh recalls thinking after he first learned that a blood clot had formed in his leg and traveled to his lung midway through during the 2014-15 NBA season. “Is this what it has come to?”
After months of treatment and grueling rehabilitation work, Bosh got the OK to return to the court last fall and resumed performing like the All-NBA-caliber all-around talent he’s been since entering the league out of Georgia Tech in 2003, averaging 19.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 33.5 minutes per game for a Heat team fighting for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference. And then, again, “right before the All-Star break,” the hammer dropped again, as Bosh relates in “Rebuilt.”
I probably sensed something was wrong on the Thursday we were going to fly up [to Toronto for the 2016 All-Star Game], because I woke up with a sore calf. That’s when I got a little nervous. I immediately went to the hospital to get it checked out, and that’s when they eventually told me that I had a small clot in my leg and they had to do further testing. And then, from that point, I was going back and forth to the hospital, getting blood taken, and then eventually I had a CT scan, and clots were found again.
My initial thoughts from it were, like, first of all, you have to be kidding. Secondly, this isn’t real. And it’s no question about it. I know it’s really happening. She just said what I thought she said, and this doctor’s telling me what I think he’s telling me.
That much we already knew. Where Bosh turns next in his video, though, represents something of a new wrinkle in the publicly told story of what’s been a quietly contentious internal issue for the last seven months (emphasis mine):
The team doctors told me that my season’s over, my career’s probably over, and yeah, this just happens. It’s just how it is. I felt right away that I was written off. Just [wipes his hands] put to the side, matter-of-factly.
If a doctor tells me, “Hey, that’s it and this is how it is,’ and I don’t buy that, I think that I have the right to disagree with you. I know inside me I have a lot of talent and a lot of ability, and I have it. I know I have it. It wasn’t a matter of if I’m going to play again. It’s when. So we took the bull by the horns.
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Bosh — and his wife Adrienne, who appears on-camera in “Rebuilt,” and his publicist — did that by issuing a statement saying he was free of blood clots and intended to return to the Heat before the end of the 2015-16 season. And by searching behind the scenes for independent doctors who might be willing to clear him to play.
And, when the Heat didn’t agree with the external doctors’ assessment, pressuring the team publicly and privately to let him come back during the postseason. And, after the Heat quickly nipped that notion in the bud before the publication of a report airing team fears that Bosh might never play again, continuing to push the idea that by taking blood thinners early enough in the day, he could prevent the formation of clots while also ensuring the medication was out of his system by game time, a combination that he believed should afford him the opportunity to return to live action.
As the back-and-forth continued over whether Bosh playing would be safe, Bosh kept the pressure on by sharing videos of his ongoing workouts and saying (or having someone else say) that he expected to be medically cleared to return to the team for training camp. Heat owner Micky Arison appeared to support that notion, adding further knots and complications to an already thorny matter … and that was before Bosh launched a web series in which he called out the team’s medical staff for giving his career the high-hat, with associated promotion to match.
Absolutely [I’m ready to come back for training camp]. We’ve been talking about it for a long time. We released a statement in May that as soon as I’m ready to play, as soon as possible, I’ll play. I’m ready. I’ve done all my work working with the doctors. I’m in incredible shape. […] Especially with Micky Arison saying, “I’ll see you at camp.” I think it’s moving forward. I have no reason to believe it’s not. We’ll finish this.
And yet, as Tom Ziller notes at SB Nation, *how* Bosh intends to finish this remains unclear. If the Heat’s medical staff just flat-out refuses to accept Bosh’s second opinions and assume the catastrophic risk that he might suffer another clotting episode if allowed to return to play, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the NBA would force Miami to do so, or help facilitate his move to another team that would clear him over another team’s objections in a situation where the potential downside is as extreme as this. And if there’s no financial or roster flexibility to be achieved in waiving Bosh just to watch him try to catch on elsewhere, there’s no reason for the Heat to do anything but sit tight, wait, and hope medical testing turns up something definitive one way or the other.
The problem could be resolved if Miami’s medical team sees clear evidence that the risk of recurrence is small enough to feel comfortable clearing him for return … but, all these months later, it still doesn’t seem like we’re there yet. From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
After spending the offseason at his Los Angeles-area home, Bosh has returned to South Florida and is in the midst of his mandatory Heat physicals. The team has yet to announce whether Bosh has been cleared to return for training camp, which opens Tuesday in the Bahamas. Bosh has yet to address the media since the end of last season, with the Heat’s annual preseason media day on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The ongoing concern in such situations is the potential need to utilize blood thinners. The reduction or elimination of such medication could, according to prevailing medical opinion, compromise’s Bosh ability to avoid a potential third clotting episode. Bosh did not address the potential use of anticoagulants during either Wednesday’s video release or the podcast he released through Uninterrupted last week. […]
“Really,” he said [during a Facebook Live chat promoting “Rebuilt”], “we’re just in the process of making sure that I can get back on the court.”
ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that the Heat “is planning to welcome him to training camp but is not yet comfortable with clearing him to play long term,” with Ramona Shelburne adding that “there is no timetable for the situation to be resolved,” due largely to the continued uncertainty surrounding how an alternative treatment method would interact with the physical strain of performing as an NBA athlete.
“If he was on any kind of preventive therapy and had another clot, then that is very problematic,” Dr. Robert Myerburg, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “If he was not, then just the fact that he had the second one certainly increases the risk. But in terms of the strategy that’s proposed, I have no experience with it. It’s an unusual strategy. And basically, he and the team have to make a decision of risk versus benefit.”
To some degree, then, we’re back where we started: with enough haze and ambiguity surrounding the 32-year-old’s health to make definitive statements on whether he should or shouldn’t be allowed to ply his trade just about meaningless. Right now, it looks like all we know is that the Heat’s decision-makers aren’t yet convinced that the benefits of clearing Bosh outweigh the risks, and that Bosh isn’t going to stop trying to convince them, and everyone else, that they do.
“We’re going to have a great season,” Bosh said during his Wednesday Facebook Live session, according to The Miami Herald. “I can’t wait to get back out there on the court and really just play basketball and do what I’m supposed to do and do what I do best.”
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