LeBron Says Erik Spoelstra Meeting With Chip Kelly In 2011 To Learn The Spread Offense Unlocked The Heat

When LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat, the expectation was that they would run off championship after championship — with James rather famously saying that’d be the case in their intro press conference.

However, after making the Finals in 2011, they fell at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, and had to go into that offseason to do a bit of soul searching to figure out how to maximize their talent. Apparently, for Erik Spoelstra, that journey included a visit to Eugene, Oregon to sit down with football coach Chip Kelly and learn about the spread offense and how those principles could translate to the basketball court.

In the third episode of LeBron James and JJ Redick’s “Mind the Game” podcast, LeBron detailed how that information became fundamental to what the Heat did, namely with moving Bosh to the five and having him become a three-point threat in the corner, opening up the paint for James and Wade to attack the rim.

At the time, Kelly’s Oregon squad was continuing the spread offense revolution in college football, particularly with how they ran the ball effectively by creating so much width. The Ducks had made the BCS National Championship game in January of 2011, Kelly’s second season as head coach, and I’d guess the running game concepts were what Spo was able to really draw on.

As James noted, they created the “Mack Truck Lane” that only he and Wade were allowed to run down in transition, pushing bigs to the outside in order to allow the Heat’s dynamic ball-handlers to attack downhill. The results spoke for themselves, and Miami’s success with a spaced out offense helped usher in this modern era of basketball we have now (with other teams like the Warriors building on it and obviously contributing in a big way), where so many bigs are three-point threats. That being tied to a visit to Oregon football is pretty wild, and it shows the imagination of Spoelstra to recognize how there are innovative principles that can work across sports.