While a lot of attention will focus on the Spurs' success and the future of Miami's marquee core players, the Heat are also losing a respected veteran to retirement in forward Shane Battier.
The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre previously reported that Battier is taking a job as a college basketball analyst at ESPN starting with the upcoming season. Then Battier hinted after the Finals that his playing days were indeed over, per Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick:
Shane Battier: "I gave everything I can to the game."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 16, 2014
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports observed Battier as he exited the NBA hardwood for the final time at the AT&T Center:
Now Retiree Shane Battier last Heat player off floor and he offered a fake golf swing before going in locker room— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 16, 2014
Battier, 35, has enjoyed a rather successful NBA career since being selected No. 6 overall in the 2001 NBA draft. He was never quite an All-Star, but he was still a solid player who could drain timely three-pointers and play exceptional perimeter defense. Battier defied his doubters to carve out 13 years in the Association.
There's no doubting Battier's basketball IQ, either, something he flashed in discussing how the Spurs were a tough matchup for the Heat, per Skolnick:
Battier says he was worried about series when he looked at Heat's defensive ranking before the Finals. "We were exposed."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 16, 2014
Shane Battier: "It was a very difficult year. There were very few pure moments. We were trying to conjure something."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 16, 2014
Despite playing 73 games and making 56 starts in the 2013-14 regular season, Battier saw his minutes dwindle in the playoffs and all but fell out of the rotation. Little could have stopped the scintillating Spurs, though, as they asserted their will and would have beaten the Heat regardless of how often Battier played.
Duke Basketball made sure to congratulate one of the program's biggest legends in Battier when the Finals concluded:
Has been an absolute pleasure & honor watching @shanebattier play basketball. Winner/champion at every level. Maxed out the game.— Duke Basketball (@dukeblueplanet) June 16, 2014
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins—who was an assistant at Duke during Battier's college years—did the same, discussing the qualities that made Battier so great as a player:
And Big Congrats to @ShaneBattier on an Incredible Career! As good of a Leader and Winner that I've ever had the opportunity to coach!— Chris Collins (@coach_collins) June 16, 2014
Perhaps the best recent memory fans have of Battier came in Game 7 of last year's Finals versus San Antonio, when he drained six three-pointers for 18 points in the Heat's 95-88 win. That will be a key part of his legacy, and something he can hang his hat on even after Miami fell short this time around.
Battier should thrive in his role at ESPN. Having starred on the biggest stage of college basketball, then backing it up with a respectable tenure in the pros, gives him a lot of credibility. A welcoming demeanor and friendliness to the media during his playing days will make Battier a natural in front of the camera.
There is no denying that Battier has had a positive influence on the game of basketball. That should only continue and be enhanced as he commences providing his insight on ESPN.