By Lisa Brody
Growing up mixed race in Birmingham in the 1980's was often lonely and difficult, basketball star Shane Battier acknowledges, but likely helped put him on the path to success. “The lesson I learned was I was different. As a kid you just want to be the same. When we won, I was accepted. It was win or die. It became my mantra in life.”
His father, Eddie, who passed away this year, was his coach in all the sports he played as a kid, and taught him, and his friends, about sportsmanship. “He was the only Black (when I was) growing up in Birmingham,” Battier recalls. “He had this big, booming voice, a big laugh, but he never intimidated anyone.”
When Battier was in the sixth grade, him mom, who he said “wanted the best academic opportunity for me,” encouraged him to attend Detroit Country Day School, which he had never heard of. “It worked out,” he said, an understatement, winning the state's Mr. Basketball in 1997.
From there, Battier attended Duke University. “I was lucky to have a great academic career at DCD so I had a choice. I felt it was time for me to push my comfort zone,” he said. Choosing Duke was “the challenge to go to play for the best coach in college basketball.”
Battier played four years at Duke, helping win the 2001 national basketball championship and national player of the year, and was the sixth pick in the 2001 NBA draft by the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies. After a few trades, he ended up a free agent in 2012.
“For the first time, I got to choose a team. I wanted to win, so I joined the Miami Heat,” he said.
Turned out that was a good choice – Battier helped the Heat win two NBA championships, in 2012 and 2013. He retired as an NBA player following the 2013-2014 season, after 13 years. He now works as the Heat's director of basketball development and analytics.
“I wanted to exercise my brain,” he said. The job he does now, he said, is “trying to uncover basketball advantages through data.”
While Battier and his wife Heidi, his high school sweetheart from Birmingham, who he first met at DCDS in seventh grade, and their two children, Zeke and Eloise, make their primary residence in Miami, they also have a second home near Chelsea and return to visit family frequently. “Michigan will always be home,” he said.
Detroit continues to be a huge part of their lives, from family to philanthropy. Shane and Heidi have created the Battier Take Charge Foundation, dedicated to providing college scholarships, dynamic programming and academic resources for underserved yet driven young scholars. “We are encouraging, inspiring and supporting a new generation of potential leaders through quality educational opportunities and the cultivation of effective leadership skills,” he said.
So far, the Battier Take Charge Foundation has provided $1.5 million in scholarships to kids in Detroit, Miami and Houston – including to Horizon Upward Bound (HUB) students at Cranbrook Schools.
“Every year we award a college scholarship,” he said.
What's next? “That's the million dollar question. I live to improve others lives.
“I look at myself as a kid from Birmingham who made good. I didn't have a great plan.”
Photo: Miami Heat