Grant Hill was honored this past weekend as the NBA celebrated true basketball greatness by adding a new class in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame along with Jason Kidd, Ray Allen and Steve Nash and numerous others. There are too many stories about all of the enshrines to get into. But I would like to use the HawksHoop platform to honor a player that was blessed to get in the Hall with a NBA Hall of Fame special shout out to what professional athletes should strive to be. Hopefully this article will show that Grant Hill is known for many things but being a basketball player is not near the top of the list.
The Grant Hill we all know now is the host of NBA’s Inside Stuff, the analyst for NBA games on TNT and then he moonlights for the month of March doing play-by-play during the NCAA tournament. We all know Grant Hill that played the “Glue Guy” (Even though all will admit that Hill was the best player) for the two-time NCAA champion Duke Blue Devils. The Laettner shot against Kentucky? Who do you think threw Christian the pass? Yep, Grant Hill. In 1994, Hill closed out his college career as an NCAA All-American and ACC Player of the Year.
We all remember the Grant Hill at Duke when he went Inspector Gadget and caught that alley-oop from Bobby Hurley in the National title game against Kansas. We remember Grant Hill lead the Blue Devils in the second half rolling over the "Fab 5" led Michigan Wolverines (If you thought Christian Laettner or Bobby Hurley was the reason they won...please stop!) We remember the clean cut college player at Duke that was not universally hated like his counterparts, Hurley and Laettner.
We forget how good Grant Hill actually was in the pros. We just remember the injuries that derailed a potentially iconic career.
But for the first six years in the NBA, Grant Hill was a bad dude...For the first six years, Grant Hill was LeBron James about a decade prior. Grant Hill’s game was smooth and quick...but he was a bad boy.
Not bad being bad, but bad being good. One of my all time favorite commercials was when Nike did an ad showing former Detroit Piston "Bad Boy" Bill Laimbeer trying to train Grant Hill into being a tough guy.
But Grant Hill's first six years in the NBA was epic. His statistics put him in some elite company...
Yes, Grant Hill was on the short list to average 20 points, five assists and five rebounds a game in his first six years in the NBA. At the time Grant Hill was one of the most complete players in the game.
You see, when Michael Jordan retired (The first time), the NBA went through a laundry list of..."The Next Michael Jordan" for 18 months until he stopped trying to chase two strike curve balls, Grant Hill was one of the first to carry that burden.
When Michael Jordan was not in the NBA, Grant Hill was the perfect superstar for the NBA to build around. He grew up in a nice neighborhood and successful parents. His father played football for the Dallas Cowboys. They both won Rookie of the Year honors in their respective sports. What father/son connection can make that claim? His mother was roommates in college with Hillary Clinton at Wellesley College and was equally as successful. With his background and well spoken demeanor, he was perfect to be the ambassador of the league.
Remember those FILA kicks Grant Hill wore? Those were just as hot as Air Jordans for a minute. Before Hill hit the floor, you wouldn't be caught dead with FILA shoes without getting laughed off the court. They are so funky, when they got released again, I got the classic blue and whites.
How about that lethal crossover he had? Everybody remembers Allen Iverson's killer crossover, but Grant Hill had that smooth quick crossover that could catch opposing big men dunked on. Ask Dikembe...or Alonzo.
Grant Hill’s trials and tribulations can be looked at as a story of courage and the willingness to not give up. Grant Hill could have given up and gotten a pass with all that he went through. Think about…
The ankle injuries that robbed him of his explosiveness.
The infection that almost cost him his life after an ankle surgery procedure.
The myriad of injuries connected with the ankle issues.
Most players would have given up not over the injuries, but the timing of the injuries. Remember he was supposed to be the future of the Orlando Magic franchise, teaming up with Tracy McGrady. Dealing with the whispers and criticisms of a superstar getting a huge contract and not living up to it can crush the psyche of most players. Grant Hill overcame the physical and mental challenges and continued his career.
Another quality that got ignored during Grant Hill’s career that gets overlooked is the ability to realize that his game had to be adjusted not only physically, but mentally. Imagine how many star players flame out of the NBA because they long to be the first option or the man on a particular team when their time had passed.
In Phoenix, Grant Hill reinvented himself as the defensive player and the “Glue Guy” to a Phoenix Suns team that featured Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in the seven seconds or less offense of Mike D’Antoni.The leadership aspect was not lost as he served as captain with Steve Nash. Plus he still had the ability to score within the offense. It was in Phoenix where he finally played an 82 game season in the 2008-09 season. This was after all of the frustrating seasons battling injuries folks.
Who would think that a man that went through so much would last 19 years in the NBA. But as successful a career Hill has had, his post-retirement career has been just as successful.
Grant Hill is part of the Tony Ressler ownership group that owns the Atlanta Hawks. He is a well respected in the media and has dabbled in politics endorsing the Democratic party most notably Barack Obama.
Along with his beautiful family with his Grammy Nominated wife Tamia and his two daughters, Myla Grace and Lael Rose, the HawksHoop staff want to congratulate all of you on your Hall of Fame induction, and wish you continued success.
You are the blueprint of what being a professional is all about.