LeBron James: Heat’s Offensive Transformation Following Spoelstra’s Visit with Chip Kelly at Oregon

LeBron James said Tuesday during his Mind the Game podcast with J.J. Redick that the reason the Miami Heat primarily went on to win two championships after losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals came down to head coach Erik Spoelstra.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 20: Erik Spoelstra, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James of the Miami Heat celebrates the Miami Heat Family Festival on March 20, 2011 at Watson Island in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2011 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

In particular, he mentioned a meeting between Spoelstra and then-Oregon football head coach Chip Kelly that helped the Heat institute more floor-spacing into their offense (50-second mark):

“Spo was the reason we were a better team, and why our team was assembled more properly. When we lost to Dallas, he went out to Oregon and hung out with Kelly and learned the spread offense and tried to figure out if he could translate that to basketball. And I don’t know the conversations he and Chip had, but I know when he came back to us, he knew for us to reach our potential I had to be f–king 10 times better than I was that previous June in the NBA Finals. But Chris Bosh had to go to the 5. And CB being who he is, there was no pushback. He knew in order for us to reach our potential, that CB would have to go to the 5. And he had to start working on his corner three, faithfully, every day after practice. … Spo knew it. He had that vision.”

It not only worked but has since been the trend in the modern NBA, as teams covet centers who can space the floor out to the three-point line, opening up driving lines for guards and wings. The NBA has evolved to the point that a player like two-time MVP Nikola Jokić essentially plays both center and point guard for the Denver Nuggets.

But Spoelstra’s vision—and Bosh’s willingness to move from power forward to center and take on a more complementary role behind James and Dwyane Wade—helped to usher in the floor spacing that remains a staple of the modern game.

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