NBA Finals: How the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers Built Their Franchises


By Sam Rector, Reporter

The 2020 NBA Playoffs have been played in an unprecedented situation. The NBA invited twenty-two teams down to Orlando to play in a bubble. The bubble format has worked to perfection, as the Playoffs have run smoothly. Now, only two teams remain: the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are currently up 3-1 on the Heat in the NBA Finals. Their next matchup is on Friday, with the Lakers looking to take the series. Before a champion is crowned, let’s take a look back in time at how these two franchises built themselves up to the Finals.

Early in the 2010s, the Heat had a lot of success with their big three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh with Erik Spoelstra as their coach. Spoelstra is the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA, so this won’t be focused on the coaching aspect of the Heat since that has remained the same for so long. Anyway, in four years, they secured two titles and made the Finals in the other two years. However, this success was not enough for James to stay, especially after the Spurs beat the Heat 4-1 in the 2014 Finals. On July 11, 2014, LeBron returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted him in 2003. The Heat responded by adding Luol Deng, Goran Dragić, and Hassan Whiteside, but they still finished just 37-45 and missed the playoffs. The 2014-15 season marked the beginning of the end for Chris Bosh, as he began to deal with blood clots. 

The Heat rebounded big time with a 48-34 record in 2015-16, but again, they lost Chris Bosh in the middle of the regular season. However, DWade played great at age 34, and Dragić and Whiteside solidified themselves as starters. Miami made it past the Hornets in the first round but fell to Kyle Lowry and the Raptors in the divisional. Then, the unexpected took place, as DWade signed with the Chicago Bulls, leaving the Heat in a tough position. With Wade gone, Whiteside and Dragić became the main options for Spoelstra’s squad. They led the Heat to a 41-41 record, barely missing the playoffs. 

The Heat continued down their mediocre path the next two seasons, making the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, but missing out in the 2018-19 season. The most notable news was that Dwayne Wade rejoined Miami in 2018 via trade. He finished his career with the Heat and retired in 2019. It became clear that the Heat had to make some major changes, as they had not been relevant since LeBron departed in 2014.

Finally, the Heat made a big splash. Last summer, they acquired Jimmy Butler in a four-team trade that also sent Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers. Going into this season, things looked bright for the Heat. Jimmy Butler earned an all-star berth, but what wasn’t expected was 2017 first-rounder Bam Adebayo’s rise to being an all-star as well. Youngsters Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Kendrick Nunn surrounded Miami’s two stars, and they also traded for Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder in the middle of the season. They finished with the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Nobody expected them to dominate like they have, as they swept the Pacers, crushed the Bucks 4-1, and took out the Celtics 4-2. It took them only six years to make it back to the NBA Finals, a remarkable feat for Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley. This Heat journey began with the departure of LeBron James, so now we transition to the team he eventually joined the L.A. Lakers. 

From 2013-2017, the Lakers were absolute garbage. There’s no other way to say it. They stunk every season, and during that span, they had three head coaches. Mike D’Antoni coached the Lakers for two seasons, going 27-55 in the 2013-14 season. They then went to Byron Scott, who went 38-126 in his two-season tenure with the Lakers. Kobe Bryant was truly the only bright spot during Scott’s time in L.A., but Kobe retired after the 2015-16 season. 

With a new coach, Luke Walton, and a bunch of youngsters, the Lakers seemed to have a bright future. They had the last two #2 overall picks, PG D’Angelo Russell and SF Brandon Ingram. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams headlined the bench, but they still couldn’t find any type of success. They earned the #2 overall pick again and selected PG Lonzo Ball, therefore displacing D’Angelo Russell. They traded DLo to the Nets, where he became an all-star. So, still without a true star, Luke Walton led this group of young prospects and mediocre veterans to a 35-47 record. Rookie Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram broke out and Lonzo put up good all-around numbers, but they still lacked a true leader. 

That all changed in an instant when, in 2018, LeBron James joined the Lakers. James put up monster numbers for the Lakers in the 2018-19 season, but the rest of the team looked off. They finished 37-45, a tough way for LeBron to start off his Lakers’ journey. Kuzma and Ingram continued to play well, but Lonzo took a step back because LeBron became the primary ball-handler. Like the Heat, they needed to make some moves. 

Then, L.A. pulled off a super-deal for Pelicans’ big man Anthony Davis. They sent Ingram, Lonzo, Josh Hart, and three first-rounders to New Orleans, giving LeBron a superstar to pair with. The result was a 52-19 record, finishing first in the Western Conference. AD and Bron were dominant, while JaVale McGee, Danny Green, and Kyle Kuzma rounded out the core of the squad. They also fired Luke Walton and hired Frank Vogel to lead the team. 

That leaves us in the present. The series has not gone as planned for Miami, but this squad is tough as nails and they will do anything to make a comeback. Can they do it? We’ll see what they can do on Friday.


(great article!)