, American basketball player for the Phoenix Suns (at time of photo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday I sat down at work, eating lunch like any normal day. Its funny seeing people smile at me as they walk; my lunch routine is exactly the same. I clock out, warm up my food, and turn on NBA TV. Even during off-season, I’m locked in. Yesterday was the perfect day to do so. There was a nice replay of the USA vs Brazil game, as well as some nice free agent information. Free agency is like Christmas in July to me. The silent (and sometimes obnoxious) excitement is the greatest feeling to me. It just so happened that as I’m turning on the TV, Grant Hill‘s name runs by. Apparently, Grant Hill is supposed to be heading to the Los Angeles Clippers; news that sounded like sweet music to my ear. If this deal goes through, the merger of one of my all time favorite players and on of my all time favorite teams would happen. Grant Hill’s career has been a love/hate career. Most people love the fact that he’s lasted so long in the league. However, his legacy being robbed from him, most people hate the possibility of Hill going away without ever winning a championship. Personally, I expect Grant Hill to go away without winning a championship. Honestly, I believe that if Hill doesn’t pull a Ray Allen and sell out to Miami (yea I said that), there will be no chance for him to win a championship. As good as the Clippers have been this past year, it will be years before they are truly considered title contenders, much less championship material. Don’t get me wrong, Grant Hill brings a nice offensive set to the Clippers. Grant still has one of the best perimeter games in the league, and that will merge nicely in LA, especially with the absence of Mo Williams. Also, consider the fact that Chauncey Billups will be back, and this team will be able to score with the best, lob city or not. Now, hold your thoughts for a minute. Walk with me down memory lane.
Grant Hill earned his name in college. Known mostly as the notorious enemy of Michigan’s Fab Five, Grant spent his days at Duke as one of their premier scorers. Coming from a sports family, Hill was primed for success in the League. Eventually selected by my Detroit Pistons in 1994, Hill went on to become a rookie sensation. Hill is accredited for being one of the pioneers to the unwritten “point forward” position. Hill could handle the ball as good as any point guard, and at the same time score inside as good as any small forward. Hill nearly single handily carried the Pistons in their teal uniforms to a couple of playoff appearances while becoming a media sensation. Hill made you like him. He spoke with class, but at the same time he’s down to earth, making it easy to laugh with him. One of my favorite of Grant Hill at this time was his Sprite commercials. It felt so cool to live in the same city as such a phenomenon. Sadly, Hill’s time at the top was cut short with a career, and life threatening ankle injury. The injury escalated during the last year of Hill’s contract in Detroit, thus making him an injured free agent. Still, people knew the talent that Hill possessed, and Orlando offered him a deal. Grant Hill was supposed to team up with Tracy McGrady in Orlando and create the most devastating tandem in the NBA since Jordan and Pippen. However, it never really happened. Hill would nearly miss two seasons with his ankle injuries, and eventually found himself heading to a new city. This time he would team up with Steve Nash in Phoenix under Mike D’Antoni’s infamous “12 seconds or less” offense style. This worked perfectly for Hill. Even though he was no longer in his prime, Hill could still run as good as most of his counterparts. The Suns offense primarily focused on pick and rolls between Nash and Amare’ Stoudemire. However, this left most defenders to double team Amare’, leaving Hill wide open in his sweet spot. Hill resurrected his career in Phoenix, proving that hard work and determination would pay off. Hill reminds me of Rey Mysterio from the WWE. While Mysterio may be the underdog, he always finds a way to win. There were so many people who doubted the Hill would ever manage in the NBA again. However, proving haters wrong in a way that only Grant can, he managed to silence haters without asking for media attention. Hill never made an ESPN special, he never blamed anyone for his downfall. The weird thing about that Hill actually did have people to blame. The Pistons organization knew of the seriousness of Hill’s injury. However, the most they did was numb it long enough for Hill to score more points. Hill literally became a work horse for Detroit, and while I love my Pistons, I am the first to admit that the organization made a huge mistake by letting Hill continue in his despair. It nearly cost him his career, and his life.
We look at Grant Hill now. Career wise tied to Jason Kidd (both were named co-ROY in 1995), Hill will always be in the same echelon as Kidd as far as HOF is concerned. While he missed out on a true historical career, Hill still has been one of the most respected personalities in the NBA. Sometimes, that means a lot more than the numbers. I would love for Hill to end his career with a championship. However, even if that doesn’t happened, Hill and all of his colleagues should certainly be proud of Hill. As a child that looked up to him I was, and as a journalist, I am today.