It’s no coincidence that this year’s NBA Teammate of the Year, Shane Battier, is on one of the best and most cohesive teams in the league. Without him, Miami would be without a calming voice, a tricky tactician, a body to throw at bothersome opposing post players—the list goes on.
Despite a depreciated game and minutes load, Battier is a key cog of a team that prides itself on its hyperaggressive defense, penchant for shooting, and dedication to team ball. Traits that by no accident are what a hard-nosed scrapper like Battier has built his reputation on. And it’s surely one of the reasons why the Heat seem unbeatable when he’s playing up to his talents. And why, as his game suffers (as it has this season), the Heat have also regressed.
Though still a relatively new award, Battier understands the scope of its meaning. Despite the league now handing out an award for seemingly everything, the importance of what this particular distinction means for Battier’s body of work, and surely, what it can do to drive up the public’s concept of team chemistry and cohesion, is not lost on the Heat player.
“It is a huge honor. It’s probably one of the biggest honors of my life. It means a lot to me, I’ve tried to be a good teammate my entire life,” Battier told the press.
Because NBA players vote on the award, and because his own active teammates can’t cast a vote in Battier’s honor, his winning Teammate of the Year speaks volumes for the veteran’s reputation. Finishing comfortably above superstar nice guys like Al Jefferson, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chris Paul, only further cements his standing as a perennial teammate. It’s surely what LeBron was speaking to when he recently mentioned that the Heat are not the most talented team in the league but that IQ trumps god-given goods. (Of course, that’s easy to say when you have the world’s best player on your roster).
With Battier doing Battier things, teammates like LeBron are able to do LeBron things without the burden that everything rests solely on their shoulders. In the locker room, Battier surely offers a similar talent: addressing what others won’t, offering necessary advice to teammates under pressure, echoing a coach’s philosophy—essentially, plugging up the holes that can keep a team from greatness’ doorstep. If he doesn’t retire after this year, his veteran knowhow will be crucial in navigating through a year that will threaten Miami’s growing dynasty with free agency, aging bodies, and bolstered competition.
The Miami Heat have been great for a while now in part because of Shane Battier’s contributions. And, too often, greatness is treated as a commodity achieved through individual undertakings and not through the dedicated work of members of a broader community. Good thing Shane Battier isn’t one of those people.