Shane Battier was named NABC Defensive Player of the Year three times at Duke. But he never faced a scorer like Kobe Bryant in college.
“I knew I always had to be at my absolute best against Kobe,” Battier said on The Habershow podcast with NBC Sports national NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh. “I knew if I didn’t have that every single time, I was going to be embarrassed. And there’s no other player I can say that about. Not one.”
Battier’s signature move was using his hand to try to block Bryant’s vision rather than contest the shot.
Bryant, who was posthumously elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, would never admit that Battier’s defensive tactic worked. In his book, “Mamba Mentality,” Bryant wrote, “When someone like Shane Battier face-guarded me, it didn’t really impact my game. I believed that I could shoot through it. The basket wasn’t moving, so muscle memory just kicked into work. I didn’t have to see the rim to make a bucket.”
But does Battier think it worked?
“Well the answer is in the end it worked, but not for the reasons you think,” he said. “I knew that Kobe, being the alpha male he was, would never admit to that technique having an affect on him. And he will go out of his way to show the world that this technique didn’t work. That he was impervious to it. How is the only way to disprove that theory? By taking more mid-range jumpers. Which was his weakness.”
Here are the timestamps for Haberstroh’s interview with Battier:
3:28 -- Which NBA player could beat Shane Battier in a “Jeopardy!” duel?
7:57 -- Advice for NBA rookies
10:27 -- Reading an absurdly obvious scouting report on Kobe
15:55 -- Guarding Kobe Bryant
26:20 -- Watching Kobe Bryant’s memorial service
If you are wondering when the NBA will return, listen to Haberstroh’s podcast with New York Times NBA reporter Marc Stein.