…basketball, although it can be applied to anything. If you’ve been watching the NBA finals, which you probably haven’t if you read my blog, you’ll notice one conspicuous name amongst those you’d expect to star in each game: Shane Battier. He was the subject of an article written a few years back by Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball) that was called by many people I know one of the best articles they’ve ever read, which includes praise from people who hate the game of basketball. It’s a fascinating take on the game, and life in general, and is getting dusted off because of Battier’s play in the finals, where he’s actually been getting mvp consideration in reader poles so far.
The article is titled The No Stats All-Star and is more a homage to intelligence than anything else. Battier views the game differently than almost anyone. And even though he rarely does much that makes highlight reels his teams almost always win. It’s fascinating. So much so that to me, someone’s who has been around the game my entire life, it’s more exciting than highlights like this.
Battier’s game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly ¬reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — probably, Morey surmises, by helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways. “I call him Lego,” Morey says. “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together. And everything that leads to winning that you can get to through intellect instead of innate ability, Shane excels in. I’ll bet he’s in the hundredth percentile of every category.”
In this typical Battier highlight, he appears to get schooled by Durant. A lesser player, however, would have also fouled, which would likely result in giving up 3 points instead of two and also stopped the game clock with Miami leading and time winding down. It’s one of the invisible strengths Lewis is talking about.
It’s a fairly long read but certainly worth your time. Psyche isn’t all about frenetic, hard driving action. There’s plenty to be inspired about keeping ones wits about them, especially under pressure.