Shane Battier experienced winning his first major championship when he was a 22-year-old at Duke. About 11 years later, he added another one to the list last week when he won an NBA title ring with the Miami Heat. And he ended up playing a bigger role in it than people would’ve guessed, averaging nearly a dozen points per game in the series with Oklahoma City.
Battier also got to be a part of LeBron James’ first NBA title, something that he considers special because of the amount of flak that James receives. Battier says if James can bottle the emotion that he found in the playoffs this year, this ring will be far from LeBron’s last.
Shane Battier joined ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo to discuss winning an NBA championship, his decision to go play in Miami, what changed for him in the Finals, Oklahoma City leaving him open early and often, LeBron getting his first ring, LeBron’s ceiling, the play of Oklahoma City and comparing a collegiate title to one at the professional level.
What was it like after the buzzer rang?:
“It was surreal. You play this game for as many years as I’ve played and I use the analogy, I sort of wandered through the NBA wilderness the last 10 years, that’s what it felt like. You just never knew if you’d have a chance to host the trophy. … It was really surreal, like a movie.”
You made the decision to be a part of this. Has that hit you?:
“It’s nice. You look a lot smarter when you say you’re a champion. It was a wild ride this year. I had career lows in shooting and points and rebounds across the board. There were times this year when I wasn’t very happy with myself and I doubted my position and everything. To go 180 from where I was to having an unbelievable playoff run and helping this team win the title, again, it feels like a movie.”
What was different where you played so well at the start of the NBA Finals?:
“When Chris Bosh went down in the Indiana series, we really had to reinvent ourselves. Basically, Coach Spoelstra started me at the power forward position and basically I became Robert Horry. He said, ‘Just shoot 3s. Space the floor. Create space for Dwyane and LeBron and when you’re open, shoot it.’ … I knew in the Finals that the Thunder just weren’t going to pay that much attention to me, so the shots were there and after having a good groove at the end of the Boston series, I just felt good.”
Even after the first game, they kept just leaving you open at times. Were you surprised by that?:
“It’s tough for a shot-blocker to all of the sudden be a help side perimeter defender. A shot-blocker is a shot-blocker through and through, so we knew he’d be going for the ball every time LeBron and Dwyane drove to the basket, so really I just had to stay out of the way and I knew I’d be open.”
What do you sense this all meant for LeBron?:
“First of all, I’m just so happy for him. The one guy in the world who takes more grief for every action, LeBron James. After being with him for a year, LeBron’s a really good guy. He’s a great teammate; he’s a teammate that’s happy for his teammates’ successes. You’d be surprised by how many superstars are actually like that. LeBron is one of those guys and we all really wanted to win for him because we know he just takes so much flak for good, bad and indifferent. Now he’s a champion and nobody can tell him anything.”
How high might his ceiling be with the weight of a championship off his back?:
“He had a look about him in the playoffs that was just unbelievable. It was unbelievable. It wasn’t even a look that he had during the regular season. … It started in the Indiana game when we’re down 2-1, where he said, ‘We’re not going to lose.’ And it was amazing. It was like he was a different person. Not to say he’s figured everything out, but when he got that look … we just had unbelievable confidence. And if he can capture that and bottle that and bring that every single night, it’s over.”
How big of a deal was it really, this storyline about Dwyane saying this is LeBron’s team?:
“I think it was overplayed. For those who know the inner workings of a locker room, obviously when you have global icons, you have large egos, but this was really about a team. … It’s a sexy storyline, but it was actually a pretty normal locker room.”
How good do you think Oklahoma City will be the next few years?:
“I tell you what, talking to the guys on the team this year, the reason we were able to make those plays in the Finals this year and come back from 3-2 against Boston and 2-1 against Indiana was because of the pain that this Heat team had after losing to Dallas the way they did. That’s the only way you can become a champion in sports, you have to go through the fire. … I firmly believe that, so that was the biggest advantage we have over the Thunder. … This will, I guarantee you, a guy like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will use this pain and they’ll be back and they’ll be better.”
How do you compare winning a collegiate national championship to winning a ring at the NBA level?:
“They’re very different. They mean a lot and in different ways. Obviously when I won a championship with Duke, I was younger. I was 22 years old and I still had a lot of basketball ahead of me. Now I’m 33 and I’ve played 11 years and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I never knew if I would get to this point … but now that I’ve done it, it just makes everything worth it.”
Listen to Shane Battier on ESPN Radio here (Interview begins at 10:40)