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Duke basketball duo bring winning way to Miami

Former Duke basketball player Shane Battier won an NBA title with the Heat this year, and won the NCAA championship in 2001, his senior year.
Former Duke basketball player Shane Battier won an NBA title with the Heat this year, and won the NCAA championship in 2001, his senior year.

When the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals, Shane Battier became the third Duke basketball player—and the second under head coach Mike Krzyzewski—to win a title in the league.

But a fellow Blue Devil was also a part of the Heat’s championship squad, albeit not on the court. Nick Arison, Miami’s CEO, was one of the men’s basketball managers from 2000-2003. The pair were a part of Duke’s 2001 national championship squad and combined for another title in Miami this year. Nick, whose father Micky Arison owns the Heat, played a critical role in adding Battier to a team of stars that already included LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

“We all knew Nick was going to move into the front office of the Heat. I remember as a senior I said, ‘If you guys need a small forward, keep me in mind,’” Battier said. “Last summer was the first summer of free agency in my career, and it was really cool to be able to call up a friend and say, ‘Let’s win a championship together.’”

That they did, with Battier averaging 11.6 points per game in the Finals, hitting 58 percent of his 3-pointers. When Arison made the recruiting pitch for his former teammate, he said he could see him being an integral member of a winning team.

Battier was the lone Blue Devil to play 40 minutes in Duke’s 2001 national championship victory against Arizona, notching a double-double in the process.

“Shane is the kind of player who deserves to be a champion,” Arison said.

While Arison sold Miami to Battier in free agency, he was also encouraged to go to South Beach by another Blue Devil. Battier said he received a call of congratulations from Duke basketball head coach Krzyzewski, who has seen just him and Danny Ferry leave Durham to become NBA champions during his tenure.

“[Krzyzewski] was the one who wanted me to go to Miami more than anyone else,” Battier said. “In the end, like always, he was right.”

Between Duke and Miami, Arison has played apprentice to two of basketball’s most revered minds in Krzyzewski and Heat president Pat Riley.

Arison, Trinity ’03, cited the pair for much of what he has learned about basketball and has experienced success in both places, including four consecutive ACC tournament victories while in Durham.

“There are very few better people to learn from, if anyone, than Coach K,” Arison said.

At the same time, Battier has witnessed Arison’s growth from freshman manager to Heat CEO. Battier was a senior in 2001 while Arison was a sophomore, so they had two years together at Duke.

“I remember this really shy freshman manager, which is the equivalent of being a plebe in the military,” Battier said. “Nick is not a man of many words, but he was especially shy as a freshman.”

Now the pair often text about the Duke basketball team, with Arison saying they were especially excited when Austin Rivers hit the now-famous buzzer beater against North Carolina. Battier also tries to stay in touch with former teammates and see them when they are in town, including Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Corey Maggette.

Both said that after the Heat won the title, they were inundated with calls, text messages and emails from former Duke teammates and other connections.

With Battier being integral to Miami’s title, does that mean people should expect to see more Blue Devils in South Beach?

Not yet, according to Battier. Down the road though, perhaps.

“We’ve got a pretty full roster, so we didn’t recruit any Duke guys this summer,” Battier said. “But, if the opportunity arises, I won’t be afraid to make a phone call.”


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