Battier ready for next play

Jul. 01, 2014 @ 10:02 PM

Three years ago, Shane Battier targeted spring 2014 as the likely time his storied playing career would finally come to a close.

He planned on it including one NBA championship, adding to the NCAA championship he helped Duke win back in 2001 as a senior. As it turned out, Battier was part of two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

Still, the aches and pains of playing NBA basketball at age 35 wore on him and he is going through with his plan to retire as an active player.

He is, however, not saying goodbye to the game he loves so much.

Battier is joining ESPN as a college basketball analyst, agreeing to a multi-year contract that will allow him to provide insight and analysis across the network’s various studio programs, as well as on selected games from various top conferences.

“I am really a product of what I was able to accomplish as a player in a basketball career that’s been a storybook experience,” Battier said in an interview with The Herald-Sun on Tuesday. “I couldn’t have written of my playing career better. I am ready for the next phase of my life and ready for this opportunity with ESPN.”

Known for his intellect and skill as a player both at during his all-American career at Duke and his 13 NBA seasons, Battier said he intends to give back his knowledge, hoping to allow fans to enjoy the game even more.

“I want to be a teacher,” Battier said. “I want to explain it to people so they understand the sport better and have a more enjoyable experience.”

While playing for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Battier was the consensus national player of the year during the 2000-01 season as a senior when the Blue Devils won their third NCAA championship.

Memphis drafted Battier in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft, and he spent his first five full NBA seasons with the Grizzlies. He played four seasons with the Houston Rockets and split the 2010-11 season between Houston and Memphis.

Following that season, Battier signed a three-year contract with Miami, joining the Heat’s big three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Battier figured it would be his final contract but kept the option open of continuing his career if his health allowed.

He helped the Heat to NBA championship at age 33 in 2012, leading the NBA with 42 3-pointers during the playoffs that season. Miami won again last year and was the favorite to make it three in a row this season.

But as the season worked toward the playoffs, the 35-year-old Battier said he could feel his age.

“I knew I’d be ready to do something else,” Battier said. “My body agreed with me. At certain times during the year it was hard to get out of bed.”

That didn’t diminish the immense respect he earned during his career. He won the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award this past season.

That was added to the multiple sportsmanship awards and the two Magic Johnson Awards he won for his combination of on-court excellence and cooperation and dignity in dealing with the media and the public.

Now he’s heading to ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, following in the footsteps of fellow former Duke players Jay Bilas and Jay Williams on the ESPN staff.

“There is a strong Blue Devil contingent in Bristol,” Battier said. “Jay Williams is one of the top, up-and-coming voices in the game. Jay Bilas is the best college analyst in the game today. I am looking forward to learning from those two guys and making the Duke contingent even stronger.”

With his family making Miami home, Battier will be jetting to games around the country when he’s not in-studio this upcoming season. While he’s spent the last 13 years in the NBA, he’s kept up with the college game and said he’s ready to contribute to the network’s solid coverage.

“It’s a very different time in college basketball than when I played,” Battier said. “Parity is a word that’s used. There is much more of a dispersal of talent. It’s still a great game, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

With his communication skills and solid academic background, Battier has been approached about running for political office. He’s not ruling anything out for his post-playing career.

But college basketball and ESPN are his new professional priority.

“I’m focused on these first baby steps of my post-basketball career,” Battier said. “Where my path ultimately leads, I don’t really know.”