Heat's Battier has brains, talent and heart
FEB 02, 2012 11:23p ET
No need to use Google when Shane Battier is standing nearby.
If Miami Heat players need a question answered, they turn to Battier, their versatile forward — versatile, that is, with his knowledge.
"He's probably the No. 1 smartest basketball player and person I've been around," said Heat forward LeBron James. "He knows everything."
The savvy Battier obviously knows basketball. He can dabble quite well in history, math, finance and religion. After all, Battier was a religion major at Duke.
During a recent practice, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was drilling his players. He asked if anybody knew the width of the court. After seeing some blank stares, Spoelstra turned to Battier.
"He said, 'I don't know.' And he goes, '50?' Spoestra said. "And the guys gave him a hard time that even when he doesn't know the answer he gets it."
It's no wonder, then, when the Sporting News in 2010 did a list of the top 20 smartest athletes, Battier ranked No. 7. That was tops among NBA players. No. 1 overall was Oakland A's pitcher Craig Breslow.
Other NBA players on the list were Phoenix forward Grant Hill at No. 10, Lakers forward Pau Gasol at No. 15 and San Antonio forward Matt Bonner at No. 19. Hill graduated from Duke in 1994, seven years before Battier.
"It's a sore subject," Battier said how Hill feels about being ranked lower.
But does Battier believe he's the smartest guy in the NBA?
"Intelligence is an esoteric measurement," he said. "I don't know. I'm smart, but I don't know about the smartest."
Well, James thinks so. So does Miami center Joel Anthony.
"That is no surprise," Anthony said of Battier's ranking.
"His basketball IQ is off the charts in terms of understanding situations and being able to analyze all the different situations on the court. Even off the court. If there's like a general question, everybody will look to Shane like, 'You know the answer to this? '"
Battier usually does.
On the court, Battier is one of the NBA's top defenders, even though he says, "There have been numerous articles sort of degrading my athletic ability."
With that in mind, the 6-foot-8 Battier studies extensively before every defensive assignment.
"You can say a play on an opposing team and run it one time and he will memorize it or he will memorize the hand signals and where different positions are supposed to be," said New Orleans forward Carl Landry, Battier's Houston teammate from 2007-10. "He's an amazing guy."
So much so that Heat president Pat Riley spent years trying to figure out a way to pick up Battier. He finally was able to when Battier became a free agent last year and signed a three-year, $9.3 million contract with Miami.
The 11-year veteran is averaging a mere 3.9 points and shooting just 33 percent for the Heat. But the value of Battier, who helped shut down Kobe Bryant in a win last month, goes far beyond statistics.
"He is like an additional coach on our staff," Spoelstra said. "When I don't know something, when I'm speaking in front of the team, I turn to Shane and ask him instead of some of the guys on my staff."
Outside of basketball, Battier also is happy to help. When he was a rookie in 2007-08, Landry said, Battier gave him financial advice and also provided him with a book on money to help ease his transition to the NBA.
Landry said Battier would make an ideal political candidate. How about President of the United States?
"I would vote for him," Landry said. "He cares about people. Definitely president. Be a representative for our country, or of our state, our city."
Battier travels to China once a year because he's a spokesman for Peak, the Chinese basketball shoes he wears. His nickname over there?
So might Battier, 33, who becomes legally old enough in two years to run, ever think about pursuing that office?
"I think I've got to convince Mrs. (Heidi) Battier first," Battier said. "Once I leave this game, I don't think I want to jump into another public life for a long time."
Battier, though, does know one thing he wants to do after he retires. He hopes to be a high-school teacher.
That's right. A guy who is making $3 million this season would take a job in which he'd be fortunate to make 2 percent of that.
"I've been influenced by so many great high-school teachers, middle-school teachers, who just taught me about life," Battier said. "I think it'd be really neat at some point to be able to impart some of that knowledge onto kids because they need it."
When Battier was a kid growing up outside Detroit, he admits he was a nerd. And he was proud of it.
"I watched Jeopardy! when I was in the second and third grade," Battier said.
"I still watch Jeopardy! I didn't grow up with a lot of material things in my life. We weren't the richest family on the block, but one of the best things my parents did is, they bought a set of encyclopedias. I used to read encyclopedias. There's nothing nerdier than that. I've always enjoyed learning and reading about new things, and I have a pretty good memory."
Battier had a 3.9 grade-point average at Detroit Country Day High School and put up a 3.5 at rigorous Duke. There still might more formal education in Battier's future.
"If I get the teaching degree, I'll be Mr. Battier," he said about how he would be addressed as a high school teacher.
At least he still can be Mr. President on trips to China.