Grant Hill's career has been marked by some of the highest peaks and lowest valleys a player could imagine. This season marks his 16th in search of a ring. Rikki Grooms takes a look at the legacy of Grant Hill, who will enter his 16th NBA season this fall in search of his first Championship.
When talking about a player's legacy, things like championships, MVP awards, All-NBA selections, and such are the first things that come to mind, but those aspects are only a small part of what makes up a legacy. While those aspects are important, they aren’t everything. The small things can be just as significant, things such as impact on the teams they played for, what the player did for the community, and hustle plays that aren't counted in the box scores.
Grant Hill was on the path to greatness long before being drafted by the Detroit Pistons, wearing Fila, and drinking Sprite. Hill was part of a four-year run by Duke that was one of the NCAA's best since UCLA in the 1970’s, a run that included two National Titles. At Duke, Hill averaged 14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 50% FG, and 70% from the free throw line. Hill's collegiate career is also remembered for the full-court inbounds pass to Christian Laettner that beat Kentucky in the regional finals in 1992.
Hill was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the number three pick in 1994 and heralded as the “Next Michael Jordan,” like countless others before and after. He proved the hype coming out of college was well warranted as he earned the Co-Rookie of the Year Award after averaging 20 ppg, 6.4 rpg, and 5 apg. During his stint with the Pistons, Hill led the NBA in All-Star voting his first two seasons, was a member of the Gold Medal-winning Olympic teams in 1996 and 2000 (although he never played in the 2000 Olympics due to the severe ankle injury that would change his career), and was a six-time All-Star. Hill amassed 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists, becoming one of only four players ever to accomplish this triumvant in their first six seasons, joining some guys you may have heard of: Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, and LeBron James.
But at this point, the superstar Grant Hill was no more, and the injured Grant Hill emerged. Hill was traded to the Orlando Magic in 2000, but he only played in 4 games before succumbing to his ankle's fragility. The next season Hill played in all of 14 games, averaging 16.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and 4.6 apg before the ankle injury again cost him the season. The next several seasons were much of the same with the exception of the 2006-07 in which Hill played in 65 games, averaging 14.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, and 2.1 apg. During his time in Orlando, Hill had four surgeries on his left ankle and one near fatal staph infection, leading to a fifth surgery.
The 2007-2008 season saw a finally healthy Grant Hill take his game, leadership, and determination to the Phoenix Suns. In his three seasons with the Suns, Hill has played in at least 70 games each year, and he's averaged respectable pers of 12.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 2.5 apg. Quickly becoming a defensive presence for the Suns, Hill has proved that defense is all about heart and determination. If a man entering his sixteenth season in the NBA on an ankle that has been completely destroyed and rebuilt can be a defensive weapon, these young guys need to take note.
Outside of basketball, Hill has taken to collecting African American art and displaying his collection across the country, plus he is very active in community service programs. Hill also gives generously to Duke University, as well as providing scholarship funds in Orlando and Detroit.
Over his career, Grant Hill has won many awards and honors:
NBA Rookie of the Year (1995)
7x NBA All Star selection (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005)
5x All-NBA Team (1st team in 1997; 2nd team in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000)
NBA All-Rookie Team (1995)
3x NBA Sportsmanship Award (2005, 2008, 2010)
Grant Hill’s legacy is one of overcoming adversity, community service, and dedication. Hill is a shining example that an NBA player's career can't be summarized just on a stat sheet.