MIAMI -- The versatility, that's what always intrigued Chris Bosh, not being defined by his height.
During his formative years in Dallas, well before Erik Spoelstra would allow him to expand his boundaries, Bosh looked beyond the post, for moments like Sunday, when his 3-pointer would reverberate beyond his two earlier dunks.
"Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan," Bosh said in a quiet moment, away from the commotion of the Sunday victory that tied these best-of-seven NBA Finals 1-1 heading into Tuesday's Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena. "That was it."
The question was about role models, those he had hoped to emulate long before his big numbers let to nowhere with the Toronto Raptors and his lesser numbers have led to this bid for a third consecutive championship with the Miami Heat.
"They were bigs who could put the ball on the floor, they could shoot from the outside, they could kill you inside," he said of Garnett and Duncan, the irony being this second consecutive bid to push past Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs for a ring. "As a player growing up in the traditional-big kind of system, that was like the best thing I had ever seen in my life.
"When I saw big dudes dribbling on the floor, I was like, 'I didn't know we could do that?' So I started working on my dribbling game and I got better at that."
And then he worked on his shooting game and got best at that, arguably the best mid-range game of a player his size in the league today.
So when the Heat twice needed breakthrough plays late in Sunday's the fourth quarter, Bosh thought nothing of being stationed deep in the right corner, the same corner where Ray Allen devastated the Spurs in last season's NBA Finals.
The first 3-point bid, off a Spoelstra timeout, failed, Bosh off with the shot. The second, off a sublime kick-out pass from LeBron James did not.
The paradox of that decisive moment was it was Duncan left to make the decision whether to sag off Bosh to impede James, or whether to stay with the player he had so influenced with his own diversified palate.
Duncan moved into the lane. James passed to Bosh. Unconventionality, Duncan-inspired nonconformity, turned the game, and maybe the series. Bosh for three.
Being different can be a difficult concept to grasp from outside. Those two earlier flying dunks by Bosh, one that drew a foul on Duncan, one that sent Tiago Splitter reeling, are what we want from those closer to 7-foot than Ray Allen-sized. They energize, invigorate, scintillate.
But on the Heat there already is a 6-foot-8 forward proficient with infusing such vigor, a 6-4 guard still capable of such moments. Rim theatrics tend to be the province of James and Dwyane Wade.
On this team, though, and on few others, is there a 6-foot-11 center so lithe that he seemingly can make himself invisible in the corners just by turning sideways. As open as he was for his decisive 3-point dagger, he was even more open on the play Spoelstra drew up during that previous timeout.
"He's the forgotten guy on our team," James said. "Shouldn't be."
And yet needs to be, so when he backpedals to the 3-point line no one quite takes notice. Stealth.
By the numbers, Bosh never should be that open. According to ESPN's stats, Sunday's shot was the 13th time Bosh has converted a 3-pointer in the final five minutes of regulation or overtime since Jan. 2012.
It is why when some point to Spoelstra positioning Bosh to fail, both coach and center grow perplexed.
"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."
To some, the genius of Spoelstra is getting Bosh to do more.
To Bosh, it merely is something he has always wanted, to grow his game beyond the confines of height. Like Garnett. Ironically, like Duncan.
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