Top Storylines in the Lakers-Heat Finals
In every game, round, or series in sports, there are storylines that tend to dominate the headlines. It can be about a player doing something notable, a particularly special matchup, or something out of the ordinary.
This year’s NBA Finals is no different. There are many storylines that have risen from the Heat’s style of play, LeBron James entering into his 10th NBA Finals series, and many more.
These are the top 7 storylines of the Lakers-Heat Finals.
LeBron vs. Old Team
LeBron spent four years of his prime with the Miami Heat, leading the team to two rings and winning two MVP awards. Since leaving the Heat, LeBron had been to the Finals four times with the Cavaliers before this year, while the Heat has not been back to even the Conference Finals before this season. Finally, the Heat have built a championship-contending team, and LeBron is leading the Lakers to the Finals.
There has always been a bit of animosity from Pat Riley on the way James led the Heat, and some fans have not gotten over him leaving their city. This reunion makes the matchup even more special for James, the Heat, and fans alike.
Much has been made of the Heat’s toughness this year, from their big-name players down to their end of the bench. The whole team is based on accountability, and the players do not take their teammates’ criticism personally at all; rather, they take them to heart and use each other to get better. This kind of culture is something many teams strive for, but the sensitivity of many players along with coaches being afraid to challenge players has led to teams talking anonymously to the press rather than telling their teammates what they think they can do to improve the team.
This type of culture is not unique to the Heat; however, the level that this has been taken to seems foreign compared to the rest of the league. The additions of Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, and Jae Crowder have helped the Heat create this culture of accountability, one that has helped them become the team they are.
Lakers Back In The Spotlight
LeBron James is leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their first championship in a decade, something that has gotten plenty of publicity by the media. In Kobe Bryant’s last few seasons, the Lakers could not produce a quality team (consistently sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference), something that bothered him greatly. Since then, even with top picks Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball, the Lakers were still cellar-dwellers.
Last season, the Lakers were a top-4 seed until James got injured, and quickly fell out of the playoff seeding. This season, after trading their young talent for Anthony Davis, the Lakers, led by Davis and a healthy James, are expected to win the title.
Jimmy Butler’s Leadership
Towards the end of his tenure in Chicago, Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose reportedly had constant disagreements, with Chicago ending up trading Butler to the Timberwolves. After leading the Timberwolves to their first playoffs appearance in 15 years, rumors started to fly that Butler could not work with his star teammates, with him reportedly believing that they were soft and their work ethic was not what it should be for franchise stars. After being traded to the 76ers early in the 2018-2019 season, Butler was upset that his star teammates in Philadelphia, like in Minnesota, were not big workers at all.
The narrative of Butler has completely shifted since joining the Heat; he went from being “impossible to work with” to an “incredible leader”. The truth is, Butler always demands accountability and hard work in order for the team to reach their potential, and struggles with teammates who do not share those goals.
Anthony Davis’s First Finals
Much has been made of Anthony Davis not leading the Pelicans past the second round so far in his seven seasons with the team, only reaching the second round once (losing in five games). Finally, with a talented supporting cast and the leadership of LeBron James, not only has Anthony Davis finally been past the second round, but he is extremely close to winning his first NBA championship.
Davis has admitted to being nervous in this years’ playoffs, and surely, playing in his first Finals, there is no difference here. However, Davis has been incredible in the playoffs thus far, and if the Lakers want to win the title, LeBron James will need all the help he can get from Davis.
Emergence of Heat’s Young Core
One of the reasons the Heat are such a special team is because of their young talent. Tyler Herro, a rookie, averaged almost 20 points in the Conference Finals and is looking like a future star, and Kendrick Nunn, a fellow rookie, was named to the All-Rookie First Team. Duncan Robinson, a second-year player, has been an absolute flamethrower from beyond the arc this season, and Bam Adebayo, a third-year player, was an All-Star this season and named to the All-Defensive Second Team.
Miami’s young players aren’t just small rotation pieces; they are some of the most important players on the team. With these players as their core, we can expect the Heat to be successful for years to come.
LeBron James’ 10th Finals
LeBron James has dominated the Eastern Conference like no other, emerging as the winner from the conference in his last eight seasons in the East (and nine times overall). Critics claimed that he could not replicate that same kind of success in the Western Conference, and after a season marred by injuries, James has led Los Angeles back to the promised land, making his 10th Finals of his career (out of 17 seasons).
James’ 10 Finals appearances is an incredible feat; only a few franchises in league history have made that many, and only a couple of other players have played in 10 Finals. While at 3-6, James may not have the best Finals record, but making this many is a feat in and of itself.