6 Things to Know Heading Into the 2020 NBA Finals Matchup of the Lakers Against the Heat

The Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers will face off in a best-of-seven series starting Wednesday night

Lebron James
LeBron James. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

This year's NBA Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers will be like none other before it.

Taking place inside the "bubble" at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, the best-of-seven series will play out on a neutral court without fans in attendance — meaning there will be no traveling to and from cities, no trash talking from an audience of thousands and no (allegedly) poisoned pizza.

But regardless of how different these Finals will be from years past, there are still key storylines to watch. Here are six things to know before the Lakers and the Heat face-off at 9 EST tonight on ABC.

LeBron James will be facing his former team and coach

At 35 years of age, James — who joined the Lakers in 2018 — is returning to the Finals for the 10th time in his career. Four of those times were with Miami, his opponent in this year's championship round.

It was during his time with the Heat from 2010 to 2014 that James won two championships out of four trips to the Finals, all under the leadership of coach Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra is still the coach in Miami and helped guide the team to a 44-29 record this season.

The Miami Heat are (formidable) underdogs

While the Heat only finished fifth in the Eastern Conference, they proved themselves by dominating teams once the NBA restarted its season following a hiatus sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lebron james and Jimmy Butler
LeBron James (left) and Jimmy Butler. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty; Michael Reaves/Getty

Miami swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, then upset the first-seed Milwaukee Bucks — who were favored to win the NBA title — in the second round. The Heat went on to beat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Championship, winning 4-2.

The Lakers, meanwhile, finished No. 1 in the Western Conference and were considered favorites to reach the Finals with the L.A. Clippers and the Denver Nuggets.

Miami's team president, Pat Riley, was a player and coach on the Lakers

Pat Riley, Miami's team president, has deep roots with the Lakers. He played for Los Angeles from 1970 to 1975 and then joined the team as an assistant coach in 1979.

But Riley would solidify himself as one of the greatest minds in basketball when he coached the team to four NBA titles during the 1980s. This era became known as "Showtime" for the Lakers, who were led by Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Since his departure from Los Angeles, Riley won a title with the Heat in 2006 as head coach and two others as team president.

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If James wins, he'll become one of 12 players to have won four NBA championships

Along with his two NBA titles in Miami, James secured his third championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. If he is able to win this season, it will mark his fourth overall title — bringing him into the company of other basketball greats like Shaquille O'Neal and Robert Parish, according to Basketball-Reference.

The Lakers have a chance to tie the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history

If the Lakers win, they will have secured the 17th NBA championship in their history, tying them with their rivals, the Celtics, who were eliminated from the playoffs by Miami last week.

Dwyane Wade,LeBron James
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

If the Heat win, this will be their first championship without Dwyane Wade on the roster

Each of Miami's three championships (2006, 2012 and 2013) we were won with Dwyane Wade on the team. Wade retired from professional basketball in 2019, and when speaking to PEOPLE in July, said he was happy in his new role away from the court.

"But when you're 38 years old, you don't want to be stuck in a bubble," Wade said. "I don't want to be stuck in a bubble. I don't know about everybody else."

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