In the game of basketball, fans rarely find a use for the word bittersweet. As a fan myself, I see things as bitter or sweet but never both. However, bittersweet best describes the way I felt in June when, at the age of 33, Shane Battier won his first NBA championship ring.
The bitter being that he got it with one my most hated teams, the Miami Heat. The sweet being that after 15 years of being a Battier fan (I was 12 when he was a freshman at Duke), I was able to see him rewarded for all the hard work he put in during his career. But selfishly, I couldn’t help thinking that, in a perfect world, the good guy wouldn’t have to win this way.
In a perfect world, Battier would win with a team he gave his blood, sweat and tears for. He’d win with a team and a fan base that could fully appreciate all he brings to the table–that knew he was so much more than a role player.
In my opinion, that team is the Memphis Grizzlies.
Even as an NBA rookie, the Duke graduate embraced the city of Memphis. I think few things hurt a fan worse than seeing one of their players disrespect their team. In today’s NBA, you don’t have to look far to find players mocking the team (and ultimately the city) that supported them.
No matter what was going on with the franchise in those first few seasons, Battier always showed respect for the Grizzlies and the fans. He was a leader and team player. The kind of player the franchise needed for its fresh start.
During his years in Memphis, he gave a lot on and off the court. It felt like he made Memphis his home and became a real part of the community. Looking back, I am in awe of the maturity he possessed at such a young age.
It was rare to hear a fan accuse Battier of not giving his all. I always felt like he left everything out on the court. He was a great defender, a tireless hustler and could hit three pointers in the clutch. One of those three pointers during the 2011 NBA playoffs will go down in history as what sealed the Grizzlies first franchise playoff win.
In my opinion, it was one of the biggest moments of his basketball career. Why do I wish Battier was in a Memphis Grizzlies jersey again? The obvious reason is that the Grizzlies could use his corner three-point shot, although I have high hopes for Josh Selby this season.
But more importantly, I think the Grizzlies could benefit from Battier’s leadership and ability to hold a team together. Yes, he is getting older and may not be the Battier we once knew in certain aspects. However, I believe his heart and dedication for the game hasn’t changed.
If we are not careful we can undervalue players like Battier. He laid much of the groundwork for the Grizzlies franchise we love today. In those moments (and even seasons) of doubt, Shane Battier was one of the original Memphis believers.
This is the first blog from 3 Shades of Blue’s newest writer, Katee Forbis aka NBAKay. A passionate fan and avid twitter commentator, Katee should be a welcome addition to the 3 Shades of Blue family. Please welcome her to the blog.