It doesn't happen often; it can't happen often. Not when the real thing already is in place.
But Saturday night, that wasn't the case. LeBron James couldn't be LeBron James because of an aching right groin that kept him out of the lineup.
So Chris Bosh stepped into the role, strangely comfortable as a leader on a team where he rarely is asked to lead.
Just as James had earlier in the week during a make-or-break timeout in a home victory against the Atlanta Hawks, Bosh took exception to a play being drawn up during a timeout with the Miami Heat down two with 7.7 seconds to play at the Moda Center.
On Monday night, because he's LeBron James and because that gives him ultimate veto power, James had coach Erik Spoelstra re-write a play during a late timeout, James seeing the possibility for Ray Allen to force the game into overtime down three. Spoelstra acquiesced. Allen was fouled during a 3-point attempt, made all three free throws, with the Heat winning in the absence of guard Dwyane Wade.
This time it was Bosh who had ideas counter to Spoelstra's diagramming. So he spoke up, questioning the logic for a long two-point shot when the Blazers then would be in control of whatever time remained on the clock. The Heat were playing on the second night of a back-to-back set, coming off Friday's overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings.
"In that situation," Bosh said, "I wanted to go for the win."
He already was 2 of 2 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, already had a season-high 34 points. Already had the ear of his coach, just as James did five nights earlier.
"My call at the end of the game was much more conservative," Spoelstra said. "I drew something up to get him on the move, and he said, 'No, I want it for the three.' So he overruled it, and became a prophet.
"Why did I even diagram something else for him? He already hit two threes. He was feeling it. He wanted it, and as soon as he said it, I said, 'Yeah, that makes sense.' And it was much better than what I had planned."
Bosh had been here before, carrying the Heat to victory two seasons ago against the Atlanta Hawks when James and Wade were out, doing the same with a buzzer-beating, game-winning 3-pointer last season against the San Antonio Spurs, when James and Wade also sat.
As Bosh said, he "wanted to go for the jugular."
Off the timeout, Wade appeared to have other ideas, attacking the paint just as he had moments earlier for a go-ahead dunk. This time, though, he drew two defenders, actually got himself in a bad spot. So he blindly tossed the ball behind his back to the spot where Bosh had discussed spotting up.
This was not a great pass, was well off the mark. That left Bosh well behind the 3-point line. But this was the shot he wanted. He delivered with five-tenths of a second to play. After a point-blank miss by LaMarcus Aldridge on the other end, it was over.
Bosh was mobbed by teammates. James slung his sports coat over Bosh's shoulders, as if it was a cape. After 37 points, 10 rebounds, 26 shots and a stand-his-ground moment during that critical timeout, Chris Bosh was savoring his LeBron-like moment.
Life for the first time this season without James was treacherous. But it also was rewarding for the Heat's most overlooked star.
"I can have a bigger brush," he said of going without James at his side. "It's a bigger canvas out there. It was a lot of space I was working with."
He had earned not only his teammates' respect, but also the respect of an opposing team that has earned the NBA's ultimate respect over the season's first two months.
"He had a great game," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "He shot the ball well, came out hot, cooled off and got hot again at the end.
"He's an All-Star. So with LeBron out, I kind of expected him to bring that type of game."
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