Since his days at Duke, Miami Heat forward Shane Battier has been seen as one of the smartest players in basketball. His approach was outlined in an instantly definitive New York Times profile, in which Battier came across as a genuinely thoughtful person who conceives of his successes and failures on the basketball court less as referenda on his abilities than the outcomes of particular situations. He plays with a mental edge, a basketball intellect that goes beyond instinct and well-practiced routine.
Battier needs that intelligence when he matches up against bigger opponents in Miami's smaller lineups. He understands his challenge, though, and he believes in himself. So much, in fact, that he's willing to battle NBA power forwards in another intense competition. From Tom Haberstroh for ESPN.com (via TBJ):
But going against behemoths like Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin on this upcoming road trip is something that Battier embraces at this stage in his career. Battier feels like he still has the brains and requisite technical skills to make up for his size disadvantage.
"I'm undersized every night, but I like to think I'm quicker in the mind," Battier said. "If we're playing Jeopardy, I like my chances against any power forward in the league. Print that."
I watch "Jeopardy!" every night — yes, I am very cool — so I consider myself something of an expert on this topic. What Battier seems to be suggesting is an "NBA Power Forwards Tournament," which I think we would all love to see. At the very least, Kevin Garnett would probably be the first person to be kicked off the set before the first commercial break.
On the surface, it appears that Battier would win this competition. However, the show's theme weeks almost always adjust the difficulty of questions to well below the contestants' level of intelligence, to the point where the currently airing "Teachers Tournament" seems better suited for the students they instruct. Something tells me the "Jeopardy!" writers would concoct categories like "Air Jordans Through the Ages," "Clubs of Las Vegas," and "The Chipotle Menu" to cater to these particular contestants. Battier might not have an obvious edge.
The ability to win, then, would be largely dependent on the players' ability to time his response, which isn't terribly different from the athletic challenges Battier faces in the NBA on any particular night. Perhaps Blake Griffin's trigger finger is as springy as his jumping ability.
However, all is not lost for Battier. His love of karaoke would give him a sure-fire hit of a personal anecdote.
More news from the Yahoo! Sports Minute: