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NBA Finals 2020

NBA Finals 2020: All-time greatness awaits Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra

It won't take long into the 2020 NBA Finals for you to be reminded that Erik Spoelstra worked his way from being the team's video coordinator to a championship coach leading the Miami Heat to four straight Finals appearance and back-to-back titles.

We've heard the story a million times and it's a great one. One that could even become a movie one day. And the script is still being written.

Spoelstra isn't just some coach who worked hard to get a spot at one of the rarest jobs in sports, he's a coach who worked hard to become one of the best in the world.

Ask any NBA fan who the top five coaches are in the NBA and you can quickly tell if they're watching games or not. The tell is whether or not they leave Spoelstra's name off the list.

Spoelstra has been at the helm of the Miami Heat for 12 seasons now. He's the second longest-tenured coach in the NBA behind Spurs' legend Gregg Popovich. He was hired a month before Dallas' Rick Carlisle, five seasons before Brad Stevens, more than six seasons before Steve Kerr and Nick Nurse was a second-year head coach in the G League when Spo got hired. Spoelstra has been a constant in the NBA, but somehow there's a perception that he lucked out with the Heatles by riding their wave to a title.

It's a narrative that LeBron James went out of his way crush heading into the Finals.

"It's been you guys that have changed the narrative or never given Spo his respect because he had D-Wade or he had myself or he had [Chris] Bosh," James said of Spoelstra. "But a lot of coaches have talent. A lot of coaches have had talent over the course of this league. It's not one.

"It's unfortunate that he hasn't gotten his respect. Every time we talked about Spo when I was there and we talked about how great he prepared us, and we talked about how great it was playing for Spo and things of that nature, you guys always said, well, you have LeBron, you have D-Wade, you have Bosh; any coach can do it.

"No, any coach can't do it. If any coach could do it, then there would be a lot more champions in this league. There would be a lot more successful coaches."

LeBron's right - Spo isn't just any coach, he's one of the good ones and has a chance to move into the great category.

In his 12 seasons as the Heat's bench boss, Spoelstra has only had a sub-.500 record twice. He's only missed the postseason three times in those 12 seasons. And when he makes the playoffs, he tends to go to the Finals. Of the nine times, Spo has taken the Heat to the playoffs, five of those have resulted in a trip to the Finals. That's 55.6 percent of the time, that's insane.

A lot is being made of LeBron's Finals appearances and Andre Iguodala getting to the dance for the sixth year in a row, but how many people are shouting Spo's accomplishments?

Look, LeBron may have gone a little overboard with the lack of respect thing. Within NBA circles and people who know basketball, there's an understanding that Erik Spoelstra doesn't need LeBron's stamp of approval, his resume speaks for itself. I believe there are more people that realize his ability than those who overlook him. The large majority will agree that Spoelstra is a good coach and one of the best in the NBA.

But Spoelstra is four wins away from leaving that conversation and levelling up into another class. The class where his mentor and Heat President Pat Riley resides as one of the all-time great coaches.

Getting to the Finals once again reminded us of his journey and how far he's come to stand amongst the world's best coaches in the game. It's solidified his position as one of the top coaches in the NBA, but a championship will open up the conversation that we aren't currently having, is Erik Spoelstra an all-time great?

A victory over the Lakers in the Finals may answer the question before it's even asked.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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