The Miami Heat will meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals. That means LeBron James will face off against his former team for the NBA championship. This is going to be one of those "Jerome Bettis is from Detroit" storylines where people roll their eyes and get sick of it, but they shouldn't because this is incredible for both LeBron James and the Heat. It might even be unheard of.
ESPN immediately dove into the story by asking Eric Spoelstra about LeBron and then showed clips of James celebrating championships when he was a member of the Miami Heat.
If you take a moment to step back, that's pretty weird! Top players have left teams and competed for a championship with a new team a good number of times, but for them to find their old team waiting for them? It has to be unprecedented. And I don't want to hear about some guy who ended up switching leagues after a WWII deployment.
When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 to go to Miami, the Cavs went from a 61-win team that had been to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, to a 19-win team. They were a 33-win team when LeBron returned to Cleveland because he was born in Akron, and went to four consecutive Finals. When LeBron left for LA, they again became a 19-win team. After adding a top draft pick, they might win twenty-something games next year.
Then there is Miami. LeBron left in 2014 and the team won 17 fewer games the next season. Embracing Heat Culture, they refused to tank or be bad enough to get a high lottery pick. They made the playoffs a couple of times as they shuffled pieces and then signed Jimmy Butler and boom. NBA Finals six years after they lost a superstar.
After this, Kevin Durant has the best chance to do this next in the NBA. If he can lead the Nets to the Finals in the next few years, it is completely possible to think the Thunder or Warriors would be there waiting. Tom Brady could feasibly do it this year if the Buccaneers and Patriots met in the Super Bowl. Those scenarios still feel a little far-fetched. Kawhi and the Raptors almost did it, but it ended up not being very close at all.
It takes an incredible amount of luck and success to build a contender. When the main piece moves on, teams are usually devastated. To maintain and rebuild in time to contend again before the guy who left is washed is incredible. Not to mention that guy has to go somewhere else and keep being awesome long enough for his former team to bounce back.
Reaching the NBA Finals is really hard and each of these teams getting there individually is remarkable. The fact that it's LeBron and the Heat in the same year is amazing. Who knows if we'll ever see anything quite like this again.