Original photo credit: Dan Winters, New York Times
Before President Obama entered the national spotlight, there was Shane Battier, the man who I believed would be this nation’s first biracial President (like the President, Battier’s father is black).
This belief of mine first germinated back when Battier played basketball at Duke, where he dominated the college game. In ’01, he won all the major awards while leading his team to the national title.
Aside from his on-court excellence, Battier when interviewed, though a college student, already sounded presidential. He’s speech was graced with candor, eloquence, and grace.
Of course, we got to see plenty of him since in the words of former UVA coach Pete Gillick, “certainly Duke is Duke, they’re on TV more than Leave it to Beaver re-runs…”, but I digress.
Now that he plays for my (adopted) hometown Houston Rockets, I’ve gotten to hear Battier interviewed on local sports radio, and the man is as smooth as ever.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who had similar thoughts regarding Battier and the presidency. Dan Wetzel, a writer with The Basketball Times back in 1996, is quoted as saying,
I thought he’d be the first black president. He was Barack Obama before Barack Obama.
The quote comes from an outstanding canonization piece on Battier by Michael Lewis of the New York Times: The No-Stats All-Star
In it, Wetzel tells a story from Battier’s senior year in high school, in which many top programs were recruiting him,
Battier narrowed his choices to six schools — Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Michigan and Michigan State — and told everyone else, politely, to leave him be.
He then set out to minimize the degree to which the chosen schools could interfere with his studies; he had a 3.96 G.P.A. and was poised to claim Detroit Country Day School’s headmaster’s cup for best all-around student.
He granted each head coach a weekly 15-minute window in which to phone him. These men happened to be among the most famous basketball coaches in the world and the most persistent recruiters, but Battier granted no exceptions.
When the Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, who had just won a national championship, tried to call Battier outside his assigned time, Battier simply removed Kentucky from his list. “What 17-year-old has the stones to do that?” Wetzel asks.
“To just cut off Rick Pitino because he calls outside his window?” Wetzel answers his own question: “It wasn’t like, ‘This is a really interesting 17-year-old.’ It was like, ‘This isn’t real.’ ”
Shane Battier in ’16?