Before he retired as a two-time NBA champion as a member of the Miami Heat in 2014, Shane Battier was a fan favorite by many during his five-year tenure with the Houston Rockets. In fact, Battier was so beloved for the tremendous hustle and heart he showcased on a nightly basis, many often joked that he could run for president tomorrow and definitely carry Texas and North Carolina.
Fresh off of a national title as a member of the Duke Blue Devils, Battier began his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies, who selected the Naismith College Player of the Year winner with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft. In 2006, the Rockets acquired Battier in a draft-night deal in exchange for Stromile Swift and Rudy Gay after spending five seasons with the Grizzlies.
Houston’s management received high recognition for the addition of Battier. It gave the Rockets a win-now mentality in their attempt to maximize the prime of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming - a duo who was coming off of a season where they missed the playoffs, and failed to advance past the first round the year prior. Although the Rockets would suffer back-to-back first-round elimination at the hands of the Utah Jazz, Battier’s on-court production did not disappoint.
Appearing in 162 of 164 games in his first two seasons, Battier established himself as the heart and soul of the Rockets during the mid-2000s. Though he was occasionally an offensive threat as a corner three-point specialist, his true value lied within his hustle, leadership, and play on the defensive end.
Shane Battier said Kobe Bryant was his favorite player to guard/play against pic.twitter.com/QX8yAqc9Vi— Prime Kobe Bryant (@_Lakers_4_Life) August 7, 2014
As a swiss army knife who could defend three different positions, fans fell in love with Battier’s intricate knowledge of the scouting report, consistent hustle for loose balls, and ability to frequently draw offensive fouls from his opponents.
In the prime of his career as one of the NBA’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony hated playing against the 6’8” defensive forward, as Battier once recalled “a look of disdain” he once received from the future Hall of Famer.
In Game 4 of the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Battier had one of his most memorable performances of his career. He recorded 23 points while shooting 5-for-10 from behind the arc, and held Kobe Bryant to 15 points (41.2% FG, 25.0 3P%), to lead the Rockets to a 99-87 victory to even up the series.
After averaging 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks during his full tenure in Houston, Battier’s career with the Rockets came to an end in February of 2011 when he was traded back to the Grizzlies in exchange for Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and a future 1st round pick.
Though he never won a championship with the Rockets, Battier left an eternal legacy on the fans in Houston. Often acknowledged as one of the best perimeter defenders in franchise history, fans had the opportunity to show their appreciation with his selection to the Rockets 2000s Team of the Decade during their 45th anniversary celebration. Five years later, Battier was one of several honorees the Rockets paid tribute to during their 50th celebration in 2017.