In May, Shane Battier held a conference call with media in preparation for the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course this week. He made it very clear that he wanted to come to Lake Tahoe a champion.
"I remember seeing Jason Kidd there last year as an NBA champion and just the smile on his face, you could tell it had been there for a few weeks ever since they had won the championship against the Miami Heat last year. I think that would be a huge thrill to go among the big boys, the stars of the stars, and be an NBA champion," Battier said on May 18.
Well, Battier is one of the big boys now. The former Duke standout and Miami Heat Forward arrived in Tahoe an NBA champion, after the Heat bested the Oklahoma City Thunder in the finals, giving Battier his first title since college.
"Well, it's pretty surreal. I got off the plane. First person I see is Emmitt Smith. He comes up and says: 'Congratulations, Champ.' Doesn't get any better than that," he said. "So having to take all the lumps from Kevin Durant and Brandon Bass and David West, to hear Emmitt Smith say, 'Congratulations, Champ,' it was worth it."
When Battier talked with the media in May, he was in Indiana about to face the Pacers in the NBA playoffs. It was a long road through Boston and eventually to Oklahoma before the Heat could call themselves champs.
"I'm sure Steve (Kerr) can tell you, the beauty of winning the championship is looking back at the journey and the path that you think you're going to take is not the path you ultimately take," Battier said. "We took a pretty twisty and crazy path to the playoffs. And down 2-1 Indiana, people started to write us off. Started to trade the big three, break up the big three. Fire Spoelstra. Down 3-to-2 to Boston going to Boston, same thing, started to shovel the dirt.
"Down 3-to-2 Boston, to hear the same things we heard in Indiana. Then down 1-0 to Oklahoma City, sort of the same process was repeated: These guys are too old, they're too slow, Oklahoma is too young and hungry," he added. "So to come back from all those situations and win a championship, it makes it even more special than it already was."
How is the NBA veteran's golf game? Well he took a much different route this year than last.
"I'm taking a contrarian approach this year. Last year I actually took lessons, went to the driving range - almost daily. Leading up, I was primed. My swing plane was perfect, my angles, and I got out here and I lost my swing. I overthought it and I just lost my swing," Battier said. "I was absolutely terrible. So I'm taking a contrarian approach. I went out, played the local muni, had a few cold ones and honed my game that way.
"Even if I'm terrible, I'm still an NBA champion."