When you really think about it, it is kind of amazing that Shane Battier got the tiny bit of acclaim that he did thanks to a New York Times profile and an ability to put his hand almost on a shooter’s face without actually putting it on their face. At this point, you probably don’t even think about Shane Battier being the National Player of the Year in college, winning a national title or being selected No. 6 overall. Nowadays, Shane Battier is just a guy with a wrinkly head who is a good defender, even though people still think he’s great.
However, he’s still got that hand in the face move, and it’s just as effective as ever. After being popularized against Kobe Bryant, Battier’s brought it to the NBA Finals, where he’s used it to great success against Kevin Durant. And let me tell you, Kevin Durant no likey. From ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh:
When asked about Battier’s unorthodox blindfold technique on Wednesday at practice, Durant shook his head in frustration and offered this response:
“I absolutely hate it.” [...]
Battier has been waiting for this affirmation for years. This is the first time a star publicly acknowledged that Battier’s patented blindfold move actually works. After hearing word that Durant hated Battier’s technique, Battier gave a flourishing fist-pump.
“Yes!” Battier exclaimed. “Someone finally admitted it.”
Battier is most famous for using it on Kobe Bryant, but the Heat forward could never get Bryant to confess that the hand-in-the-face trick was effective. Then again, Bryant is never one to reveal weakness.
“See, for years Kobe would never admit it,” Battier said. “People generally don’t like to be touched in the face. They don’t like hands in the face. They just don’t like it.”
You know, Shane Battier makes a great point — people don’t like being touched in the face. Try it sometime. Go up to one of your best friends and touch them on the nose. Even though you and that person are very close, they’ll be like, “What are you doing?!” I have been testing this hypothesis since high school, so believe me when I tell you that people are VERY protective of their faces.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that Battier’s blindfold move works so well. As he says in Haberstroh’s piece, “I know I don’t like it so if I don’t like it, I know other guys won’t like it.” This makes total sense. Imagine shooting a jumper that you have a split-second to release in the first place, only at the last possible moment a 6-foot-8 dude rockets his hand in to your face but doesn’t touch it. Not only is it really good defense, it’s also kind of creepy, which has to be a big part of why it works so well.
It’s also interesting that Durant would admit he hates this move. When Dirk Nowitzki admitted the Nuggets had defenders who could guard him, he got killed for it. Now Durant is doing it in the middle of the NBA Finals and Battier is hearing he hates it, which could theoretically could lead to a lot more hands in the face. If we see LeBron James put his giant paw in Durant’s mug, we’ll know KD shouldn’t have said anything.
But for now, I guess we can just congratulate Shane Battier on making a super annoying maneuver famous. That is a weird accomplishment to have, but he’s got it. High five to him. Right in the face, preferably.