As he gears up for his final playoff run in the NBA, Shane Battier has been dolling out quiet reminders of his on-and-off-the-court brilliance.
Battier, who has said that he's retiring after this season, held Carmelo Anthony to 4-of-17 shooting during the Heat's victory over the Knicks this week.
Then the graceful veteran offered one of his signature quotes, about why he'll miss guarding the NBA's best players.
“I will miss the feeling of the butterflies before a game when I know I have to guard a Carmelo Anthony, guard a Kevin Durant, a Kobe Bryant,” Battier told ESPN. “There’s nothing in my life that will ever, ever replicate that feeling. So I try to enjoy it. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not. But it makes you feel alive."
While other players surely know the feeling, few can express it as eloquently as the 35-year-old Battier.
A Duke graduate who has grinded out 13 years in the NBA, Battier is heralded for his basketball IQ. He is widely respected by his opponents and often selected as one of the players who would make the best coach.
His brilliance was the subject of a New York Times feature by Moneyball author Michael Lewis. In that story Battier talks about guarding Kobe Bryant, whom he has famously shut down over the years.
While he's taken on a reserve role with the Heat after being a full-time starter in Memphis and Houston, Battier still finds himself matching up occasionally with the opponent's top player. And, whether they admit it or not, Battier's tactics are extremely frustrating.
Battier's heady play hasn't earned him an All-Star appearance, and he's never even made the NBA's All-Defense first team. But his love for the game, and specifically for an aspect (defense) that others abhor, has earned him a special place in the hearts of basketball purists.