Eleven Storylines Everyone Is Talking About Heading Into Tonight's Heat-Lakers NBA Finals

Jimmy Butler is four games away from proving the haters wrong.
Jimmy Butler is four games away from proving the haters wrong. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty
The Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers kick off the NBA Finals tonight in Orlando at 9 p.m. Just as we all predicted when the season began, the Heat will be playing for an NBA title. In Orlando in front of no fans. In October.

Hold onto your butts, South Florida. Things are about to get extremely spicy in the sports department once the Heat square off against LeBron James and the Lakers.

There are a lot of pots cooking on the NBA Finals storylines stove. Here's an assortment of our favorites.

Pat Riley gets his revenge against LeBron James. Let's go ahead and get the obvious biggest story of these NBA Finals out of the way: The biggest storyline of this series is Pat Riley sticking it to LeBron James after he chose to leave the Heat in 2014. It's all the national media will want to talk about and for good reason.

Pat Riley will get a chance to stick it to the man that took his ball and ran home the moment things got tough in Miami. A couple of years ago it looked like that would never be the case.
Jimmy Butler was right. Fans in Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia can not be enjoying the player their franchises ran out of town because he was "mean" and "too hard to work with" leading his newest team, the Miami Heat, to the NBA Finals in his first year.

Prior to arriving in Miami, Butler was considered a team cancer who had a bad attitude. In Miami, he has been the polar opposite, and in two weeks, he could be an NBA champion.
All Andre Iguodala does is play in the NBA Finals. While everyone is focused on the superstars, team presidents, and coaches who make it to the NBA Finals, Andre Iguodala just quietly participates.

Every single year.

This will be the sixth straight season Andre Iguodala has played all the games. From Golden State to Miami, he has been a lucky charm. Or just lucky. Let's hope he's both against the Lakers.
LeBron James versus Michael Jordan. The debate about whether LeBron James is the greatest NBA player of all time never stops, but he has an opportunity to add to his argument if he can capture his fourth NBA title. The doubters will say it took LeBron ten trips to get to his fourth title while Jordan won six out of six tries.

If LeBron loses to Miami, a lot of negative attention will center on him going 3-7 in NBA Finals. Not in Miami, though. We'll be celebrating.
Udonis Haslem farewell tour. Udonis Haslem ended last season by sinking a jumper that completed a Dwyane Wade triple-double in his final game. Most people assumed that was the way he would go out. You couldn't top finishing your career with the Hall of Fame player you began it with fifteen years prior, right?

Apparently, big-time LOUD wrong. Haslem decided to come back for another season and is now in the NBA Finals. Insert Paul Rudd "Would would have thought?" gif here.
Dwyane Wade is rooting for everyone. Just one season away from the game, Dwyane Wade is still completely and fully engulfed by it. His best friend, LeBron James, is meeting his former longtime team, the Miami Heat, in the NBA Finals literally just a few months after he retired.

Whoever wins, Wade wins. You can bet Wade will find his way onto a broadcast and/or be featured on the telecasts in some way, shape, or form. Nobody knows the players better than he does.
Is Anthony Davis the best teammate LeBron has ever had? Answer: NO! That's Dwyane Wade. That won't stop people from asking this question over and over if LeBron is able to win a title with Davis, though.

LeBron has played with the likes of a washed-up Shaquille O'Neal, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and now Anthony Davis. But in the end, Dwyane Wade will always be considered the greatest of them all. You can be sure to hear that fact debated during this series, though.
Erik Spoelstra is finally getting the respect he deserves. After years of hall of fame-caliber coaching in Miami, only now is Heat coach Erik Spoelstra getting the recognition he deserves. Before now, people thought and said he only looked like a great coach because he had elite players like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James carrying him over the finish line.

This season, Spoelstra is in the NBA Finals with a Top 25 player nobody else wanted, an assortment of journeymen, and a crop of young players that are playing like All-Stars. It's about time the rest of the nation realizes what Miami has long known: Erik Spoelstra is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, not just the NBA.
Tyler Herro is still a 20-year-old bucket. In his first season with the Heat, Tyler Herro seems to have lived six seasons. It has been the weirdest year ever to begin an NBA career, but I'm pretty certain that if you asked Herro, he'd tell you it couldn't have gone any better.

Herro's playoff experience will forever be highlighted by his 37-point Game 4 in the East Finals. Unless he does something even bigger in the NBA Finals. With him, you almost expect it to happen.
Dion Waiters is an NBA champion. Well, this is awkward. Dion Waiters started the season with the Miami Heat and will finish it with the Los Angeles Lakers, assuming he can avoid all hypnotic gummy-bear situations in his hotel room for the next couple of weeks.

Miami kicked Dion to the curb after repeated conflicts with the coaching staff, but it's sort of a tradition in the NBA to give a championship ring to any guy who played for your team that season. So Waiters is getting some jewelry no matter what happens.
The Miami Heat are the greatest franchise in the NBA. Over the course of the past 15 years, no NBA franchise has ended their season in the NBA Finals more often than the Miami Heat, who will be making their sixth appearance since 2006. It can be argued that since the Heat entered the NBA in 1988 they've been the most successful franchise in the league.

A title this year would cement that fact. Three different eras, four championships.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.