During the first season of the Miami Heat Big Three in 2010, the team got off to a 9-8 start and a rift reportedly developed between star small forward LeBron James and head coach Erik Spoelstra.
James and Spoelstra didn’t see eye-to-eye and it led to the club playing some poor basketball early on. During a loss to the Dallas Mavericks in November, James was seen bumping into Spoelstra going into a timeout.
Basketball author Ian Thomsen recently appeared on the Zach Lowe podcast to discuss his book, “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA.” One of the best excerpts that Lowe and Thomsen discussed was the story about LeBron James subtly asking Riley to replace Spoelstra early on in the 2010-11 season.
Here’s a quote from Lowe’s podcast, where Lowe is quoting a passage from Thomsen’s book that is spoken by Riley:
[I] asked how things were progressing. They just said, ‘We’re not feeling it, or something like that.’ We talked about the typical things we have to do, have patience, all that stuff.
And I remember LeBron looking at me and he said, ‘Don’t you ever get the itch?’
And I said, ‘The itch for what?’
He said, ‘The itch to coach again.’
I said, ‘No I don’t have the itch.’
The Heat went to the NBA Finals that year, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron James wasn’t the player he is today back then, as “The King” came up short in the fourth quarter that entire series and even scored in single-digits one game.
James, Spoelstra and the Heat, however, turned things around the next two seasons. Miami won back-to-back championships, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2013.
The Big Three era in South Beach ended with the Heat losing to the Spurs in the Finals in 2014. James went back to Cleveland in the summer of 2014.