Three years ago, Shane Battier stood on the biggest stage among the brightest lights in Staples Center in Los Angeles. Battier and the Houston Rockets battled the Lakers for a full seven games without Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming, who suffered a season-ending injury in Game 3 of that series. The Rockets relied more on a team game.
However, they faltered against Kobe Bryant’s relentless offense and Pau Gasol’s outstretched arms.
If McGrady and Yao were healthy, maybe the Rockets could have gone all the way to the finals. Battier wouldn’t have been bothered battling against Paul Pierce in the finals. That has always been his role—guarding the best player on the opposing team.
LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul; all the way from the power-forward to point-guard positions, Battier's game is stopping them.
He was always undervalued; however, when he is on the court, his teammates play better. Battier guards the opposing team's prolific scorer; he commits few turnovers, and he shoots the most efficient shots.
He is a no-stat superstar because he does things that don't show up in the box score.
Battier waited 11 years before getting an opportunity like this, and this has been the closest he could ever be to a championship.
For most of the regular season, Battier played really poorly averaging only 4.5 points for the first 34 games of the season and dropped all the way to 3.8 points per game with only a 27 percent three-point field-goal percentage in their second-round battle against the Indiana Pacers.
However, when it matters most, Battier delivers. For the first two games of the NBA Finals, he averaged 17 points per game and 69 percent from the three-point line.
It is no fluke or coincidence.
Whenever he feels his team’s back is against the wall, he knows he needs to step up—just like what he did with the Rockets three years ago, pushing, grinding and sacrificing everything for the team.
With just two games left before Battier can celebrate his first ever NBA Championship, he knows he has to push his 33-year-old body to the limit. From Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant all the way to Russell Westbrook, Battier is willing and able to defend them.
All the time Battier has put in through the years could finally pay off.
It’s not always the way you expect it; sometimes it’s even more. This has been an opportunity and a good basketball journey.
Two more wins, and hard work pays off.