Grant Hill was an amazing athlete and person, who came into the league and made his mark in the mid-90s, some even comparing him to the next Michael Jordan. At 27 years old and in his prime dominating the NBA Hill suffered multiple injuries that would sideline him for most of his career. There is nothing amazing about his individual career stats but how he managed to bounce back multiple times is the real story.
Grant Hill was born in 1972, in Dallas Texas, his parents weren’t your average blue-collar workers, while his mother once roomed with Hilary Clinton at Wesley College and also worked as an attorney in the Nations Capital. His father, Calvin Hill played football in the NFL for 12 seasons earning offensive rookie of the year, 4 pro bowls and even a winning a super bowl championship.
Grant as a kid would hang out at the Dallas Cowboys facility with his dad who was playing for them as a running back. He learned very early on what is was like for a professional athlete watching his father in the locker room, while he conducted interviews and the hard work he had put in as a pro athlete. Grant liked football but his love was for the game of basketball.
Attending South Lakes High School located in Reston Virginia, Hill was already a 6 foot 4, 13-year-old freshman. He was approached by the varsity coach Wendell Byrd, to play basketball for him. Hill didn’t want to play with the older kids, he wanted to play with his friends on the freshman team.
Hill knew he could play varsity ball but he just didn’t want to, but little did he know how it would change his game becoming a High school All American. He was receiving stacks of recruiting letters in the mail every day. Before his senior year, he had already committed to playing for Duke where he would play for the next 4 years, which in the early 90s was normal.
Career With The Duke Blue Devils
He had a remarkable 4 year run at Duke averaging 14.9 points and 6.0 rebounds a game shooting 53 percent from the field. He is 9th amongst all-time leaders for Duke in scoring and sixth in assists while being fourth in blocks and steals.
Hill helped lead Duke to back to back Championships in 1991 and 1992 during his freshman and Sophmore year. During his 4 years at Duke, Hill helped Krzyzewski’s and Duke to a program-best 118 wins and 23 losses.
Already during his Junior year, he was regarded as a lottery pick in the NBA draft, leading the Blue Devils in scoring with 18 ppg and earning the nation’s top defensive player of the year award. In his senior year he was back in the championship game final, losing to Arkansas by just 4 points. Although he did not win the championship, his college career was exceptional.
Grant’s Collegiate Career Highlights
- Ninth basketball player to have his number retired by Duke University
- 2-time member of NCAA Championship team (1991 & 1992)
- Eleventh all-time for points scored at Duke (1,924)
- Ninth all-time in assists at Duke (461)
- Sixth all-time in steals (218) and in blocks (133) at Duke
- Unanimous First Team All-American (1994)
- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) 1994 Player of the Year
- Finalist for the 1994 Naismith, Wooden, and RVA/USBWA National Player of the Year Awards
- NCAA All-Tournament Team and Southeastern Regional MVP (1994)
- 2-time First Team All-ACC (1993 & 1994)
- USBWA Second Team All-American (1993)
- 1993 Henry Iba Corinthian Award as nation’s top defensive player
- 2-time nominee to the UPI Second Team All-American (1992 & 1993)
- Selected to the 1992 NCAA All-Final Four team
- Member of the 1992 USA Olympic Development team
- Voted to All-American Freshman and All-ACC Freshman teams (1991)
- Member of the 1991 USA National Team at the Pan American Games
These stats are referenced from GrantHill.com
Career In The NBA
Grant Hill was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1994 as the 3rd overall pick entering the league as a small forward. Signing an 8 year 45 million dollar contract.
Hill could do it all, he had the quickness of a guard and the length strength of a power forward. He would fill up the stat charts every game. He played like Scottie Pippen as a point forward but could score more than Pippen with similar playing styles, he was regarded as having the best crossover for being 6’8.
He was regarded as the next Michael Jordan as Jordan had already retired. Everyone had high expectations and he didn’t disappoint earning co-rookie of the year honors with Jason Kidd averaging almost 20 ppg and 6.5 rebs, 5 assists and 1.7 steals.
Hill’s popularity was growing at a rapid pace, so big in fact he was the first rookie to lead the NBA in Allstar ballot votes with 1,289,585 just beating out Shaquille O’neal.
Soon after came in the shoe deals, sprite commercials, and magazine covers. Hill could do no wrong, he was well mannered respected and presented himself professionally. Hill married his girlfriend at the time, Tamia a known R&B singer in 1999.
Hill played for the Pistons for 6 years making the playoffs four out of six times losing in the first round each time. For those six years with Detroit Hill averaged 22 pp, 8 rebs, 6 ast, and 2 steals per game. Every year he played he had improved from the year prior. From 1995 to 1999 Hill was the Leader in assists all four years among non-guards.
Prior to the playoffs in 2000 Hil was still unsure what his move would be in the offseason he was becoming an unrestricted free agent. He was toying with the thought of possibly signing for one more year but wasn’t sure.
On April 15, 2000, a week before the playoffs Hill suffered an ankle sprain on his left foot against the 76ers. Cleared by the Pistons medical staff saying it was only a bone bruise, he continued to play always in severe pain. That is until game 2 of the first round of the playoffs vs the Miami Heat where he ended up breaking the same injured ankle.
“At the time I got hurt, I felt like the game was becoming very easy for me, “Hill said. ” I was entering my prime. There was an understanding of the game. I felt the next four or five years would be an opportunity and a time to really make my mark and really go for it”.
Hill was averaging close to 26 points a game his final year with the Pistons and was third in the league in scoring already a superstar in the league and on top of his game where he had always envisioned himself as complete player statistically.
Hill has gone on record and said he feels the Pistons medical staff misdiagnosed his ankle injury, even questioning him about even being hurt. We have to remember free agency was right around the corner, and being hurt would not look good trying to sign a new contract. Hill could barely move without any pain, prior to the break, he was being treated heavily before and after the game. While at the time saying the ankle was getting worse.
When Hill finally found out it was broken he was relieved and now he could take the necessary steps to fix the problem and get back on the court as soon as possible.
Hill didn’t think it was a conspiracy that the Pistons were trying to get rid of him but it makes you think. Look what happened to Kevin Durant with his Achilles injury in the 2019 NBA finals, not saying that’s a conspiracy but it makes you wonder.
If you know a player is more than likely not signing with the team and he’s injured, I could see the team sending him to the wolves so to speak with nothing to lose.
Hill left the pistons after the first six years of his NBA career putting up 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists in that time in Detroit. Only LeBron James, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson were the only 3 players in NBA history to but up those kinds of numbers in their first six seasons in the league.
The Orlando Magic received Hill in a sign and trade, The Detroit Piston signed Hill for 92.8 million dollars trading him to the Magic for Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace, which later was an excellent move for the Pistons as they ended up winning a championship in 2004.
Magic had hoped for the rising star Tracy Mcgrady and Grant Hill to team up and be something special for Orlando, but it didn’t work out that way. Hill’s nagging ankle injuries would force him to miss 292 out of a possible 492 regular-season games. He would even miss the entire 2003/2004 season.
Grant Hill made an amazing comeback for the 2004/05 season by this time Mcgrady had already made a name for himself and was playing for the Houston Rockets.
But Hill was healthy, playing 67 games and averaging an unbelievable 20 points a game that season after missing nearly 3 years. Hill made the eastern conference all-star team that year, all through the Magic didn’t make the playoffs and things were looking up for Hill moving forward.
That is until Hill would miss 61 games the following season due to a nagging groining injury. It was obvious to the Magic that Hill was 92 million dollar mistake. But it wasn’t of any fault of Hill’s, when you are putting your million-dollar body in the hands of the team’s medical staff and trust their opinion as your told, you really have no choice.
All is not lost with Grant before the 2007/08 season Hill was traded to Phoenix where he managed to stay healthy playing the next 5 seasons teaming up with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. The issue was is that the Suns were an excellent team previously to when Hill got there. They had a lot of new faces and no identity anymore, it was poor timing but I’m sure Hill was happy to be healthy and playing.
The team struggled until the 2009/10 season when the Phoenix Suns made one more run and made the playoffs. Hill knew he could no longer be the go to guy as the injuries took a toll on his body and the time has past. Phoenix was able to make it all the way to the conference finals, but falling short and losing to champion Lakers team. It took 15 years for Hill to get past the first round of the playoffs.
Grant Hill’s final season came in 2012/2013 for the L.A. Clippers at the age of 40 averaging a career 17ppg, 6 rebs, 4 ast over 18 seasons. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Hill’s full potential, but injuries are apart of the game, every player gets injured but how will you overcome that injury is the hardest achievement in sports. Time and time again we see players fall off the face of the earth due to injuries. Not the case with Grant Hill.
Hill went out as an excellent role player and was a leader in every locker room he was apart of, Hill was one of the best ambassadors for the league off the court.
Grant Hill credits his father to how he conducted himself during the difficult time he endured in the NBA due to his injuries. His father Calvin Hill showed his son during his time in the NFL how to model himself into a respectful athlete that people will look up to. Hill could not have overcome the obstacles he faced in the NBA without that experience from the locker room.
He could have just walked away with the money after Orlando but he didn’t, 11 surgeries and almost dying due to a bacterial infection from one of his ankle surgeries, Hill lives to tell his aspiring story about never quitting. Grant Hill may have been the greatest “What If” story the NBA has ever seen. Hill was inducted to the Basketball of fame in 2018, Thank you Grant Hill for the memories.