During his years in the National Basketball Association, Shane Battier was known as a selfless player who focused on helping his team win — often at the expense of his personal statistics.
Score another major assist for Battier, who recently made a surprise morale-boosting appearance on a teleconference with members of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. The talk by Battier was arranged by Teachers College’s Education for Persistence and Innovation Center (EPIC).
“You guys are an inspiration to all of us,” the retired power forward told physicians, nurses and support staff in a Zoom call after being introduced by EPIC Director Xiaodong Lin-Siegler, Professor of Cognitive Studies. “God only knows how chaotic your lives have been and what your families have gone through. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for keeping our communities safe.”
You guys are an inspiration to all of us. God only knows how chaotic your lives have been and what your families have gone through. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for keeping our communities safe.
Battier has faced his own share of formidable foes, matching wits and banging bodies with the nation’s best players at every level. [Read “The No-Stats All-Star,” a 2009 New York Times profile of Battier.]
He was the nation’s high school and college player of the year, played for the U.S. National Basketball Team, and won an NCAA championship at Duke and two NBA championships as a member of the Miami Heat. But, Battier told his listeners, his opponents on the hardcourt were nothing compared to the challenges that they face on the frontlines of the COVID virus, which has claimed 258,000 lives internationally, more than 72,000 in the United States, and nearly 20,000 in New York State, the current epicenter of the global pandemic.
“You are doing amazing work, you are saving lives,” he said, speaking via a live feed from his home in Miami, where he works as a front office executive with the Heat. “I’m just a basketball player.”
If there were a medical equivalent of the NBA’s “Teammate of the Year” award, which Battier won while with the Heat in 2014, Lin-Siegler would be a leading candidate to receive it.
“Our department is succeeding in this fight because of your wonderful support of us and the Columbia community,” Obstetrics & Gynecology Department Chair Dr. Mary E. D’Alton told Lin-Siegler.
For her part, Lin-Siegler similarly praised D’Alton and Arnold Advincula, Levine Family Professor, Vice-Chair of Women’s Health & Chief of Gynecology at the Sloane Hospital for Women, New York-Presbyterian /Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “These dedicated caregivers are providing critically important leadership amid one of the worst medical crises of our times,” she said. “I admire the hospital leadership so much for their commitment, their courage, and their concern for their staff.”
During the past two months, the TC professor has personally arranged for the delivery of much-needed protective gear and other equipment from China to leading medical centers in New York City and Connecticut, including CUIMC. She recently arranged for an additional 15,000 N95 masks, the most extensive and hard-to-come by for frontline professionals, bringing the total number donated through TC to more than 30,000. [Read a story on EPIC’s work to bring protective gear to U.S. hospitals.]
Lin-Siegler connected with Battier through her research. Since publishing a groundbreaking study in 2016 which found that students attain higher levels of achievement in STEM subjects when they learn about the struggles of famous scientists, Lin-Siegler has been interviewing exceptional athletes and Nobel laureates to learn about their stumbles in route to success.
“Behind every success there is exceptional failure,” Lin-Siegler explained, reviewing EPIC’s work for the caregivers on the call with Battier. In a note after the call, she wrote, “Thank you, Shane, again, for making the time to meet the NYC medical workers! They will never forget your support and love, especially at this very difficult time!”
Battier, who was one of 15 standout athletes who were interviewed by EPIC researchers, told his listeners that he considers attitude an essential part of the calculus that leads to success. He predicted ultimate victory over the virus and forecast a lifelong bond among those who have fought the disease, not unlike that which he shares with his championship Duke and Heat teammates (including Lebron James).
This connection will be forever,” he told the staff. “No matter where you are or what you do when this is over, it will be forever once the proverbial curve is flattened and the champagne cork is popped.
“This connection will be forever,” he told the staff. “No matter where you are or what you do when this is over, it will be forever once the proverbial curve is flattened and the champagne cork is popped.”
Meanwhile, he urged them to practice a mantra preached by Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski on the power of posture and body language.
The legendary “Coach K” counseled his players to walk with their shoulders thrown back. And never, under any circumstances, were they to clutch their uniforms or slump their knees as a game wound to an end.
“The point was to send a signal that we weren’t tired and that we were in control,” Battier recalled. “That is intimidating to an opponent.”
In their own battle with a deadly virus, Battier exhorted the health workers, “never underestimate the power of your body language for your teammates” — or, equally important, for the people depending on you for survival.
“The power in standing up straight is that it sends the message that ‘we’ve got this – we’ll win the day.’”