The 2020 NBA Finals match-up is finally set. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat will collide for the NBA championship and in the culmination of this unique, roller coaster season.
It’s an interesting clash as it has layer after layer of storylines – LeBron James battling the Heat, a franchise he won two championships with; a Hollywood, star-studded Laker team going against the gritty, underdog Heat squad; and the Lakers trying to win it for the late team legend, Kobe Bryant, among others.
There’s an interesting fun fact too: this will be the first NBA finals where the opposing teams did not make the playoffs in the season prior.
One of the most interesting aspects in the match-up, however, revolves around the two sides’ biggest stars: LeBron James and Jimmy Butler. Both are premier players, and though the former has enjoyed a far more decorated career, they undeniably played a role in their respective teams’ quick turnaround.
Let’s now discuss the two guys’ similarities and differences:
Their journeys could not have been any more different.
LeBron is a teenage basketball prodigy who was desired by universities, highly-touted by NBA scouts, and has been a big public figure since he was 16. He was a household name among hoop fans a year before he entered the NBA in 2003, and that was before the social media boom.
Butler, on the other hand, had to work his way through everything. He was not recruited out of high school so he settled to play for a community college (Tyler JC). Fortunately, he was so good in there that he got Marquette University’s attention, where he then blossomed and became a first-round draft pick. Upon entering the NBA, as you know, he had to slowly climb up the ranks too.
Despite the difference, I think the paths they took still lead to the same drive and vision. LeBron is used to a top-level quality of play so he expects it from others all the time; Jimmy is used to grinding, and playing your heart out, so he expects it from others all the time.
Both are born leaders, and very demanding ones at that. There are differences in their approaches – LeBron is not an in-your-face leader like Jimmy, and Jimmy is not exactly the basketball savant that LeBron is. You may not also agree with some of their schtick, but they are in that same breed of guys that will relentlessly, sometimes unforgivingly, push their teammates.
‘Bron, as you know, has had the reputation of being his teams’ unofficial general manager, one who’s pulling strings and won’t hesitate to trade you if you continuously fail to meet his expectations. Jimmy, meanwhile, will call you out, cuss at you, and talk trash with no regard. He’ll tell you like it is with a straight face.
That, again, has led to the overall makeup of their respective teams. The Lakers’ supporting cast has bought in to whatever their role is (and play it well), and the Heat have molded a tough-minded core, similar to what Jimmy is.
There are many differences behind their playing styles.
LeBron is a game manager that knows his peers’ tendencies, the opposing teams’ playbook, the opposing coaches’ styles, and more. Skills-wise, he’s a do-it-all offensive weapon that’s built like a tank –as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin put it quite accurately, LeBron is a “pirouetting locomotive”.
Jimmy’s pretty well-rounded too. He can score inside and out, create shots from himself off of any angle, and move well without the ball. Rebounding and facilitating are good as well as he has always been very unselfish.
Defense is a department that he may have the comfortable edge. He’s the more proven and consistent defender, especially since LeBron has had suspect defensive efforts over the last couple of seasons.
Just like the other factors, those list of qualities have led to how their respective teams have shaped up in certain areas – the Lakers are very methodical and sneaky on defense, like LeBron, while the Heat are pesky and rugged, like Jimmy.
How good will the LeBron-Jimmy match-up be?
It’s should be good, but let’s first hope that we can see it. It will depend on the gameplan and we’re sure to have another long chess match between the veteran coaches, who happen to be very defensive-minded themselves, so they may be very particular on the match-ups.
Catch Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals on Thursday, October 1 at 9:00 AM, Manila time.