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Analytics: Shane Battier’s Competitive Edge in the NBA

2x NBA Champion Shane Battier shares how to win with analytics.

Black and white basketball

Some NBA players work on their jump shot. Others work harder in the weight room. Shane goes for the data. In our interview with 2x NBA Champion Shane Battier, find out how data and analytics influenced his game.
Shane Battier had a distinguished 13-year NBA career where he was regarded as one of the most complete players for his leadership, lockdown defense, and intellectual approach of the game. He won back-to-back NBA championships and was also a six-time division winner of the NBA sportsmanship award. He was dubbed the No-Stats All-Star by Michael Lewis of The New York Times.

AYX: What made you so passionate about the sport?

Shane: The most important lesson I learned was when I was in kindergarten and first grade. I grew up outside Detroit in a small suburb called Birmingham. I was the only minority in my elementary school — the only kid with a black dad and a white mom. And I was a foot taller than everybody in my grade. When you’re that young, you're just trying to fit in — you don't want to be different. I learned that recess was the equalizer. When I helped my friends win at kickball, baseball, football, basketball — people loved me and my differences didn't matter anymore. I learned that the way to be accepted was to win and be part of an amazing team. That theme carried me throughout my entire basketball career from kindergarten to the last day in the NBA.

AYX: What role did analytics play in your career?

Shane: I was super fortunate to be traded to the Houston Rockets in 2006. They were the first team to adopt big data as an organizational philosophy. If you knew my game back in 2006, most people would say I was an average player — ten points, six rebounds a game. Daryl Morey and Sam Hinkie embraced analytics and actually made a trade for me on draft night because of the advanced metrics they had. The analytics that Daryl and Sam had with their algorithms and regressions showed that even with my modest stats, when I was on the floor, my teams played at a top level, but when I was off the floor, they barely played like a playoff team.

AYX: How did you use analytics to become a top competitor and top lockdown defender on the court?

Shane: I wasn't that athletic or fast and couldn't jump very high, but I could think every play. So, I looked at big data and analytics as a huge, huge weapon for me and I really was the first adopter in the NBA. My scouting report was like 10-15 pages every game while everyone else got one page.
I just wanted more data. The more I knew about my opponent, the better it was for me. Before analytics, the scouting report would say something like Kobe Bryant has a great right hand and he’s excellent in the post. But now in the analytics age, I could distill who Kobe was down to a basis point. I began to look at basketball as one big decision tree. I used to worry about the results, but in this analytic world, I was more concerned about what should’ve happened versus what actually happened. It allowed me to become 100% process oriented.

AYX: What’s your life mission and journey now?

Shane: Basketball obviously was a huge part of my life for 30 years, so I had to come up with a new game plan. Now, I try to live the three C’s — contribution, challenge, and community. I want to contribute, to make people better. That’s what allowed me to have an amazing NBA career and I wanted to continue that beyond the game of basketball.
Life is also about challenge — having a growth mindset and understanding what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. I also value being part of a community — that’s why I’m passionate about the Battier Take Charge Foundation, where we give scholarships to at-risk youth in Miami, Houston, and Detroit.

The influence of analytics in sports is a real game changer. Don’t miss out on the action — join our bracket madness tournament and use analytics to get the win.

Tune In

Watch the full interview with Shane Battier and see other ways analytics can be leveraged in sports, like to create a winning bracket.


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