He had more or less admitted to me that this part of his job left him cold. ‘It’s the same thing every day,’ he said, as he struggled to explain how a man on the receiving end of the raging love of 18,557 people in a darkened arena could feel nothing. “If you had filet mignon every single night, you’d stop tasting it.” To him the only pleasure in these sounds — the name of his beloved alma mater, the roar of the crowd — was that they marked the end of the worst part of his game day: the 11 minutes between the end of warm-ups and the introductions. Eleven minutes of horsing around and making small talk with players on the other team. All those players making exaggerated gestures of affection toward one another before the game, who don’t actually know one another, or even want to. “I hate being out on the floor wasting that time,” he said. “I used to try to talk to people, but then I figured out no one actually liked me very much.” Instead of engaging in the pretense that these other professional basketball players actually know and like him, he slips away into the locker room.
When Alexander, a Wall Street investor, bought the Rockets in 1993, the notion that basketball was awaiting some statistical reformation hadn’t occurred to anyone. At the time, Daryl Morey was at Northwestern University, trying to figure out how to get a job in professional sports and thinking about applying to business schools. He was tall and had played high-school basketball, but otherwise he gave off a quizzical, geeky aura. “A lot of people who are into the new try to hide it,” he says. “With me there was no point.” In the third grade he stumbled upon the work of the baseball writer Bill James — the figure most responsible for the current upheaval in professional sports — and decided that what he really wanted to do with his life was put Jamesian principles into practice. He nursed this ambition through a fairly conventional academic career, which eventually took him to M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management. There he opted for the entrepreneurial track, not because he actually wanted to be an entrepreneur but because he figured that the only way he would ever be allowed to run a pro-sports franchise was to own one, and the only way he could imagine having enough money to buy one was to create some huge business. “This is the 1990s — there’s no Theo,” Morey says, referring to Theo Epstein, the statistics-minded general manager of the Boston Red Sox. “Sandy Alderson is progressive, but nobody knows it.” Sandy Alderson, then the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, had also read Bill James and begun to usher in the new age of statistical analysis in baseball. “So,” Morey continues, “I just assumed that getting rich was the only way in.” Apart from using it to acquire a pro-sports team, Morey had no exceptional interest in money.
Averaging just four points per game in this year's playoffs, Battier was certainly not expected to have 28 minutes on court in Game Seven - more than he played in the first four games of the Finals. "The basketball gods - I believe in basketball gods and I felt they owed me big-time. I had a bunch of shots in San Antonio that went in and out," he said. "I know I am a better shooter than my numbers put up. A lot goes into it - I thought I had some open looks in the last two games and when I have open looks, I expect to make them - and I did," he said. Battier's performance mirrored that of Mike Millers in last season's title-clinching game when he scored seven three-pointers to sink the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The display left Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praising the perfect attitude Battier took to being left out of the action. "He was smart enough to know that sometimes it is about match-ups and in a series things change. But he is so important to what we do that eventually he would get his chance again - when he did, he made the most of it. "The guy has won at every single level - high school, college, pro and that's not a coincidence. He has something running through those veins that separates him, makes him a little bit different as a champion." It was a Battier three, early in the third quarter that gave Miami a four-point cushion, setting the tone for the second half and igniting the crowd and another of his trademark long-range baskets that made it 88-82.
Dwyane Wade, who claimed his third NBA championship with Miami, having been part of the 2006 title-winning team, said Battier's display epitomised the way in which the Heat's supporting cast had made a key contribution. "In Game Six it was Ray Allen with the big shot and obviously last year Mike Miller had an unbelievable performance," he said. "Shane hadn't hit a shot since I don't know when but tonight he was unconscious. He's just a big-time player. You want that for Shane so bad. "He is going to go down as one of my favourite team-mates of all time just by being the guy that he is. And we needed it. We needed every inch of what everybody gave".