Heat cool on permitting Bosh to play

Chris Bosh is adamant that he will play in the NBA again, but Heat team president Pat Riley said his career is over.
Chris Bosh is adamant that he will play in the NBA again, but Heat team president Pat Riley said his career is over. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Chris Bosh, one of the top players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), has never caused trouble for his team, on or off the court. He has won two NBA titles and been selected for the All-Star Game 11 times.

The Miami Heat, however, do not want him to step on the court for them this season, or perhaps ever again.

In one of the strangest stand-offs in NBA history, Bosh and the Heat are locked in a dispute over whether he should be deemed medically fit to play after dealing with serious health problems.

With training camp scheduled to start this week, Bosh says he is ready to go. The Heat say he is not.

Bosh's last two seasons have been cut short by blood clots.

He has indicated that he has worked with a private physician to devise therapies that would allow him to play. The Heat are less certain.

"I think Chris is still open-minded," Heat president Pat Riley said. "But we are not working towards his return. We feel that, based on the last exam, that his Heat career is probably over."

Bosh is owed about US$76 million (S$103 million) over the next three seasons whether he plays or not.

So, if the Heat are, in fact, looking out for Bosh's welfare, it suggests an exception to what is perhaps a more common practice of professional sports franchises: Pushing players to compete regardless of medical concerns.

The Heat announced their conclusion, citing a medical examination, after Bosh's recent emergence from a self-imposed cocoon of silence to wage a public battle with the team's medical staff.

Bosh has done several interviews with Uninterrupted - his former team-mate LeBron James' digital platform for athletes - in which he has sought to make his case.

"I'll be there," he said about training camp on a recent podcast. "Will I be cleared? I don't know. That's out of my hands. I will play basketball in the NBA. I'm confident."

People with blood clots typically take blood-thinning medication, which is probably one of the most daunting hurdles for Bosh.

Athletes who are on blood thinners are advised to avoid contact sports because of an increased chance of internal bleeding and other complications.

Even an elbow to the ribs could cause significant damage, said Dr David Forsh, the chief of orthopedic trauma at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan.

"There are a lot of risks," he said.

Bosh experienced his first known clotting problem in February last year. He had cramps, spasms and shortness of breath, although he tried to hide his symptoms.

He recalled one particular instance when he was in pain until 4am and the Heat were scheduled to face the Dallas Mavericks the next day. He still played because the Heat were already short-handed.

"Not the best thing to do," Bosh said on the podcast. "One thing about athletes - and I don't know what it is about us - we ignore pain, or we try our best to ignore pain. And I think that's one of the worst things you can possibly do."

Bosh was eventually hospitalised, and tests revealed that a blood clot in his calf had travelled to his lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism - a problem that can be fatal.

Bosh had surgery and spent nine days in a hospital. He lost about 11kg, he said, and missed the final 30 games of the 2014-15 season.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Heat cool on permitting Bosh to play'. Print Edition | Subscribe