If a college basketball player becomes the first in Atlantic Coast Conference’s history to record 1,900 points, 700 rebounds, 400 assists, 200 steals and 100 blocked shots; a consensus Freshman All-American (1190-1991); 1992-93 Henry Iba Defensive Player of the Year; First-Team All-American and ACC Player of the Year (1993-94) and lead the Duke Blue Devils to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1991 and 1992, of course expectations of NBA greatness will surface. Grant Henry Hill certainly lived up to them.
In his rookie season (1994-95) as a Detroit Piston, Hill played 70 of 82 regular season games, averaging 19.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.7 steals and 38.3 minutes per contest, ranking him amongst the top 25 players in those categories. He became the first Pistons rookie to score over 1,000 points since Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Tripucka did it in the 1981-82 season. His contributions placed him into the 1995 All Star game, making him the first rookie to lead all players in fan voting. On April 7th, he recorded his first triple double scoring 25 points, snagging 11 rebounds and dishing 10 assists against the Orlando Magic. Hill closed out his inaugural season, sharing the NBA Rookie of the Year award withJason Kidd. The following five seasons, Hill would continue his progression as an elite player, keeping company with the league’s best and continuous All-Star Game appearances, with the exception of the 1998-99 season, which was abbreviated due to a strike.
Grant Hill started the 2000-01 season with the Orlando Magic, thanks to an off-season trade. He suffered an ankle injury just four games into the season. After several failed attempts at a return, Hill got word on January 3rd that he would have to sit out the remainder of the season. Given his contributions up to this point, NBA fans, players and reporters alike awaited his much anticipated return. What none of them knew was the ankle injury would lead to a string of season ending injuries, including the re-aggravation of his left ankle and a sports hernia. Most viewed these injuries as hindrances to his legacy. Some even labeled him the NBA’s Ken GriffeyJr., an awesome player that couldn’t seem to shake the injury bug. While that is a solid point, you have to look at the flip-side. Given that Hill suffered these injuries earlier in his career, Hill’s body had not endured the punishment his colleagues dealt with during an 82 game season. That allowed him to have fresh legs, once he recovered. Beg to differ? Let’s fast forward to 2004-2005.
In his 11th season, Hill averaged 19.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 67 games played. Yes, he missed 15 games, but what athlete in any sport makes it through an entire season without a blemish? He went on to grab his 4,000th career rebound, won the NBA’s Joe Dumars Sportsmanship Award and resurfaced onto familiar territory, making his seventh career All-Star Game appearance.
In his final season with Orlando (2006-07), he shot a career best 52% from the field and became the 187th player in league history to surpass the 12,000 point plateau. Hill is now in his second season with the Phoenix Suns and while his numbers have regressed from those of his heyday, he’s still productive. When healthy, he is easily one of the best all-around and fundamentally sound players the game has ever seen. No he’s not a candidate for Most Valuable Player, but the 36 year old Dallas, Texas product / Reston, Virginia implant has shown he can still play the game effectively.
Written by Antoine Hoffman