Chris Bosh LeBron James

Turns out Chris Bosh is pretty important this season

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Chris Bosh was once one of the best players in the league. We’re learning that this designation moves faster now. Due to the extensive nature of talent in this league, players are constantly rising and falling to the top tiers. In 2010, he was considered one of the best players in the NBA. Last year, the bottom fell out. Someone was going to fall to the bottom of the Big 3, and Bosh wound up as it. He was considered rattled, soft, and the whole crying thing after the Finals didn’t look good either. (Never mind that if other players had done it they would be complimented for how much they cared.)

But we’re seeing bits of that player that was considered so elite before “The Decision.” And no more definitive an example of that exists than Sunday’s game against the Lakers.

There will be claims that Bosh’s absence due to personal reasons for the second game lead to the ability for Andrew Bynum to relentlessly pour in points and putbacks at the rim. That’s not really true. The Heat actually won the rebounding battle. Bosh wouldn’t have added toughness down low, wouldn’t have negated the advantage of having Pau Gasol and Bynum roaming the paint at both ends.

But what Bosh serves as is the superior drop-off option. Twice late in Sunday’s game against the Lakers, LeBron James drove to the rim and faced a double-team before dishing a whip-around pass to a teammate. Unfortunately, it was Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony catching the passes. Both times the ball was stripped, the Lakers recovered, and, well, you know. Kobe Kobe Kobe, all day long.

Even beyond the Lakers game, that missed jumper from Udonis Haslem that got LeBron in such hot water for (gasp) passing to an open man? That would have been Bosh taking that shot. Which, by the way, he’s 6 for 9 in those clutch situations this year.

Bosh wouldn’t have changed the outcome of Sunday’s game. Metta World Peace was draining turnaround jumpers for crying out loud. Kobe Bryant played an efficient game and when that happens the Lakers are pretty unstoppable. With Dwyane Wade completely failing, there is no doubt the Lakers would have won that game. But the bigger scheme makes it clear that the Heat legitimately depend on Bosh. This doesn’t mean he’s more important than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. He’s not. But he is pivotal to their success, which they’ve had a lot of this season.

After so much grief the past year and a half, all of a sudden, and very much under the radar, Chris Bosh is showing himself to be a legitimate member of the Big 3. His absence on Sunday was completely understandable. It was also noticeable beyond the revenge game from Kobe and Metta Madness. Bosh is no longer just decoration. He’s necessary for the Heat to win a title.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS β€” This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments β€” which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition β€” dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea β€” a drone dunk β€” but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest β€” interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson IIIΒ won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’sΒ best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS β€” The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation β€” they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help β€” Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.