It was an NBA career with 977 games played and two championships won. Yet, beyond the games and accolades, perhaps the biggest mark newly retired NBA player, Shane Battier, made during his career was off of the court.
The line outside wrapped around the building and inched towards the street. It was filled with a who's-who of Miami life -- ritzy housewives, CEOs and models -- all anxious to get inside for the night's main event. The group had gathered to watch the Miami Heat perform -- not on the hardwood -- but on the stage. As the doors of the Filmore Miami Beach opened guests quickly took their seats, the lights were dimmed and the music sounded. This was going to be an evening with the Heat unlike one fans had ever experienced.
The third annual Battioke -- a karaoke fundraiser for Shane Battier and his wife, Heidi's, Battier Take Charge Foundation saw LeBron James and Michael Beasley singing Juvenile's "Back That Thing Up," Chris Bosh doing the Humpty Dance and Battier stealing the show to the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," with some help from Ken Jeong and Greg Oden.
While the event brings laughter, friendly competition and even some embarrassment, its ultimate goal is to help the young people that the Battier Take Charge Foundation serves. When it came to finding a way to give back, the Battier's dug into their personal histories to find a cause to support.
When Shane was playing with the Memphis Grizzlies, Heidi spent some time teaching at schools in the Memphis area. She began at a private school, but later moved to the Grizzlies' Academy, a charter school funded by the Memphis Grizzlies aimed at giving low income children a high quality education. "I went from a private school in Memphis to a school where kids were coming from some really rough areas. Being in that setting was super eye-opening. Shane and I both had two parents who everyday told us we could do anything. I realized that there are so many kids who don't have that. In fact, they have people telling them they can't. They tell them not to even daydream about college, because it's not happening for them," Heidi Battier reminisced.
Although Shane Battier's parents told him as a young man that he could achieve anything, he believes that his college education opportunities could've been limited without his basketball talent. Noting that his parents did not have the means to fully fund a college education, Battier also notes that he would not have qualified for financial aid. Recognizing this gap in educational funding, along with Heidi's experience working with students in Memphis, the Battier's decided to address the issue and launch the Battier Take Charge Foundation. "Both Shane and I have the belief that there is no cap on learning. What you can learn in the college environment as a person should be there for anyone who wants it. Unfortunately, it's not. We decided that if we can bridge that gap, then we were all in," Heidi Battier noted.
Today, one of the main initiatives of the Battier Take Charge Foundation is its scholarship program. Through the program, the foundation awards four-year $20,000 college scholarships to young leaders in Miami, Houston and Detroit. "We kind of always knew we wanted to do something in terms of giving back. Shane has been very fortunate in his career. At the beginning of it, we weren't sure how we wanted to give back. We are believers in higher education and the opportunity for that for everyone. After we started the foundation, it was one of those things that when your parents tell you when you're younger on Christmas that it feels as good to give as it does to receive, that we realized they were right. This is all about giving kids opportunities. The feeling we get in being part of the process is indescribable," Heidi Battier said.
While the Battier's have two biological children of their own, Heidi dotes on the accomplishments of the Take Charge Foundation's scholarship recipients like a proud mother. She mentions the college graduate who taught English in South Korea before heading to graduate school. She talks proudly about the tenacity of the young man who not only excels in school, but "hightails" it to a job where he's put in "more hours than a 30-year-old has in their career" to help support his family. "These kids have been through everything. They've been through parents with drug addiction problems and were in prison. Yet, they stay on track," she remarked.
Perhaps its those stories that Shane took into the locker room to motivate the Heat to participate in Battioke. Or maybe it was he and Heidi's drive to change a generation that gets the Big Three on the stage singing and dancing in front of thousands. Whatever the motivation, though, Battioke has been a successful fundraising tool for the Take Charge Foundation. Heidi notes that the foundation is very close to endowing its scholarship fund, which will ensure that sixteen students will receive scholarships at all times. "One of our big things with the Take Charge Foundation, is we want to be part of a generational change. It just takes one generation to go from a negative experience to someone providing for a child to have something to change what might have been a negative outcome," Heidi Battier said.
While Shane Battier hung up his sneakers following the Heat's NBA Finals appearance and prepares for a broadcasting career, he remains committed to the foundation's mission. "I take my civic responsibility very seriously and so does my wife. We have an amazing ability to reach out together for a great cause. We are both very passionate about education. We think that it is the key to unlocking your potential. It's our duty and responsibility to make the Battier Take Charge Foundation as strong as we can and help as many people as we can," he said.
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