They're gangin' up on Chris Bosh

Few athletes are more likeable than Kevin Durant.

Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, is as humble as he is talented. In fact, a lot of people theorize that besides Boston and Los Angeles, Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder pose the biggest roadblock to LeBron James and the Miami Heat winning an NBA Finals.

So suffice to say that when Durant took a verbal swing at Chris Bosh following the Thunder's 108-103 loss to the Heat on Sunday, it was considered to be not only out of character for Durant, but also a confirmation of Bosh as a poser.

"There's a lot of fake tough guys in this league and he's one of them," said Durant, who drew a technical foul after he and Bosh exchanged some unfriendly words.

Even in an age in which technology seems to alter our world every millisecond, I'm continually amazed at how quickly the perception of an athlete can change.

Around this time in 2008, Bosh was receiving high praise and widespread laughs for posting this hysterical All-Star Game campaign video.

But now, rather than laughing with him, it seems like a lot of people are laughing at him.

James is the most scrutinized member of the Heat, but Bosh wins the trophy for being the team's most disrespected player.

From the moment he joined Miami, the perception has been that Dwyane Wade and LeBron are Michael Jackson, while Bosh is Tito.

It's unfair. It isn't a coincidence that as Bosh's production has increased, the Heat have surged.

After he left Toronto last summer, a local sports blogger wrote that while Bosh was probably the best player in Raptors history -- better even than Vince Carter -- his seven years in Toronto were nothing more than "a few meaningful games mixed into a mostly unremarkable tenure, even forgettable."

Considering the post-Bosh Raptors are one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, my guess is they wish they had Bosh -- and his unremarkable 20 points a game -- back.

I wouldn't dare make the argument that Bosh's stardom or talent is equal to LeBron or Wade's. But of the three, a case can be made that Bosh might be the most indispensable.

That much was evident when Bosh missed the four games prior to Oklahoma City with an ankle injury. The Heat struggled during that time, going 2-2 with hollow victories over losing teams, Detroit and Toronto. Their two losses came to playoff-bound Atlanta and New York, and during those games it was obvious that Miami's offense without Bosh is one-dimensional, stagnant and downright predictable.

So why does it seem like everybody loves hating on Chris?

I blame Shaq.

As a member of the Cavaliers in 2009, Shaquille O'Neal called Bosh the "RuPaul of big men" because Bosh implied the 45 points Shaq scored on the Raptors were a result of the referees overlooking Shaq's repeated 3 seconds in the lane violations.

Of course it wasn't smart for Bosh to challenge Shaq, but ever since Shaq made those comments, questioning Bosh's masculinity has been a running theme.

When Bosh's photo shoot with Maxim magazine went viral last week, it wasn't long before there was a flood of juvenile descriptions in the blogosphere. Apparently, smiling, having fun and not taking yourself seriously isn't manly.

No one will ever mistake Bosh for an enforcer, but he's the Heat's best interior weapon. If it weren't for him, Miami wouldn't be in a position to meet its great expectations.

If Bosh is like most competitive athletes, he'll probably never let on whether any of these perceptions bother him.

Besides, winning is the only thing that will change them.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.