Now that he has another basketball championship wrapped up, Shane Battier is turning his attention to golf.
The Miami Heat forward will make his fifth appearance at the 24th annual American Century Championship July 16-21 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. He has less than one month to dial in his golf game, but Battier isn’t worried. He’s approaching the impending tournament with utter confidence and sights set on maintaining his win streak over Charles Barkley.
“I haven’t beaten many people at the American Century Championship, but I have beaten Charles every year,” Battier said. “So the day that Charles beats me is the day that I retire from the American Century Championship, and I will not let that happen.
“So Charles, you know, I’m close to you on the leaderboard, but you never ever beat me.”
That being said, Battier isn’t wasting any time getting ready. He hit the links for his first practice round two days after the Heat locked up its second NBA championship.
What did that first practice yield? Battier still drives the ball well, making him a good candidate for the Korbel Long Drive contest, but his short game and putting were “absolutely in the gutter.”
Somewhat scary since Battier only has three weeks to work on his short game after helping ESPN with NBA Draft coverage this week. Luckily, his hoop skills transfer.
“You know, I think there are similarities between golf and basketball, especially shooting,” Battier said. “You can’t think about your jump shot, you can’t think to yourself, OK, my elbow has to be tucked. I have to have balance on both feet, I have to be looking at the rim. You just shoot the ball.”
Golf is no different.
“You grip the club and you trust what you’ve practiced your entire life,” Battier said.
Battier is entering the tournament with 300/1 odds, but the pro basketball player has been counted out before. After being benched for Game 7 of the Conference Finals, Battier went 6-for-8 from the floor with 18 points in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
“I was very proud of myself, to be honest with you. I’m not proud too often, but it was a difficult time to sit and watch and essentially be told that our best chance of winning does not involve you,” Battier said. “As a competitor, that’s a tough pill to swallow, but I was there to support my teammates and stay ready.”
Redemption tastes good, especially when it’s served up in the form of a rib eye steak from Lebron James.
“As far as the rib eye goes, there was nothing sweeter,” Battier said. “I alluded to being benched as the equivalent of being a basketball turd sandwich, which it was. As a competitor, it was tough to digest. But the rib eye, after tasting that turd sandwich, was the greatest food you’ve ever eaten in your life. That’s what Game 7 was for me.”
Tastes good, and there was a different kind of satisfaction that came with Game 7. The second championship was complements of understanding of what it takes to climb back up the mountaintop.
“The first championship you win, you’re just grinding,” Battier said. “You’re keeping your head down, you’re full steam ahead, and you wind up at the top of the mountain. But after that, you understand the sacrifice and the pain and the heartache that goes into winning a championship.”
Realistically, the Heat stand a good chance of a three-Peat with Miami returning the majority of its championship roster.
“We’ve won back‑to‑back championships now,” Battier said. “So if it ain’t broke, don’t have to tinker with it too much.”
But Battier isn’t trying to get too far ahead of himself. For now, he’s just savoring the feeling of a come-from-behind championship.
“We’re just trying to figure out what the heck happened in Game 6, which was a game for the ages. Obviously, we were facing the odds of losing that game in the last 30 seconds. And then to come out on top of that game and win a very emotional tough Game 7, we were just putting it all together. Then the victory celebrations and the parades,” Battier said on Wednesday. “Today is the first day I’ve been able to catch my breath and reflect a little bit about what just happened.”