It didn’t take Duke fans long to realize that Shane Battier was unusual. As a freshman, he came off the bench and basically was an ace defender.
Then one night, we think in his sophomore year, he came out and, more or less out of the blue, starting shooting threes.
No one, including the media, expected it, and afterwards he was asked about it. He said that he had watched a movie about Shaolin monks and realized, basically, that he could do anything he set his mind to.
Or at least that’s the story he told. Obviously he worked hard to become a better shooter.
He was always thinking though and that included in the NBA where he had to face guys like the late, great Kobe Bryant.
Bryant didn’t enjoy playing against Battier and Battier, frankly, knew Bryant was better. So, like Bill Russell with the vastly more talented Wilt Chamberlain, he had to find a way to outsmart him.
Which brings us to Battier’s habit of putting a hand in Kobe’s face when he was shooting.
You might think he was trying to block his vision.
He knew that Bryant would want to prove that it didn’t affect him so he would take his worst, most difficult shot, to prove that Battier couldn’t stop him.
But what he did, whether Bryant ever caught on to it or not, was to trick him into a challenge he didn't understand, one that would force his overall percentage down.
It was an audacious way to defend a more talented player and it worked. Bryant was a Hall of Fame talent, but Battier was a Hall of Fame tactician too.