Hill, Grant 1972–
Grant Hill 1972–
According to the old saying, “nice guys finish last.” Grant Hill has made a career of proving that wrong as a point forward for the Detroit Pistons. Widely admired by fans for his leadership ability and his winning personality, Hill has been described as a “hope for sports heroism” in a day when many professional basketball players seem moody, arrogant, and obsessed with fame and fortune. “In a world of flashy young stars, Hill is an oddity, wrote Mike Lupica in Esquire.“He conducts himself with an elegance that seems more uncommon in sports than a solid collective-bargaining agreement.”
If the balloting for the annual National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game is any indication, Hill is the most popular player in basketball. In both 1995 and 1996 he received the most All-Star votes of any active player, even beating—in 1996—Michael Jordan. Product endorsements, television appearances, and an action shot on the front of the Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal box have brought the Duke University graduate a level of recognition far beyond what a typical NBA player might expect in the early stages of his career. Former Pistons coach Don Chaney told Time magazine: “Grant is headed for stardom. You can’t talk it, and you can’t teach it. The fans are getting hungry—hungry—and are getting tired of immature athletes. They want something better.”
It is not surprising that expectations for Hill have been high—and that he has struggled to live up to them. When the Pistons signed him in 1994 he was hailed as the “next Jordan” based on his stellar performance in college. The comparison did not suit Hill, who in his polite way tried to explain that he plays a different style of basketball. Being hailed as an heir to Jordan “didn’t seem fair to me,” the younger player explained in Sports Illustrated.” No matter what I did, if I didn’t score as many points as Michael, or win a title in as many years as him, I would be a failure. Besides, I was never a scorer. Getting 30 [points] a night has never been what I’m about.” What Hill is about is being a great all-around player, grabbing rebounds and defending against league-leading scorers while serving as a team leader and a spokesman for honest, sportsmanlike play. “Off the court, I can be the nicest person in the world,” Hill explained in USA Today Weekend .“But when I get on the court, whether you’re my mother, father, or friend, I want to beat you. I want to
Full name, Grant Henry Hill; born October 5, 1972, in Dallas, TX; son of Calvin (a retired professional football player) and Janet (an attorney and consultant) Hill. Education: Duke University, B.A., 1994.
Member of Duke University Blue Devils basketball team, 1990-94, making appearances in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) finals in 1991,1992, and 1994. Professional basketball player, 1994—. Selected by Detroit Pistons third overall in first round of 1994 National Basketball Association draft.
Selected awards: Henry Iba Award for nation’s best collegiate defensive player, 1992; named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, 1994; member of NBA All-Star Team, 1995 and 1996 (led balloting on both occasions), named co-Rookie of the Year, 1995; member of Dream Team III, 1996.
Addresses: Office-The Palace of Auburn Hills, 2 Championship Dr., Auburn Hills, Ml 48326.
beat you bad. I’m not going to cheat. I’m not going to play dirty. I’ll do anything within the rules to win.”
Grant Hill was born in 1972 to parents who knew all about high-level accomplishment. His father, Calvin Hill, was an All-America football player at Yale who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1969 and appear in four Pro Bowls as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. Calvin Hill was the Cowboys’ first 1,000-yard rusher. He also played for the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns. Not to be outdone, Grant Hill’s mother, who roomed with Hillary Rodham Clinton at Wellesley College, worked as an attorney and consultant in the nation’s capital.
Although Grant cannot remember his father’s best years as a football player, he did grow up with a realistic view of sports superstardom. “I never saw [my father] in his prime. But I pretty much know what he did,” Hill explained in USA Today .As a youngster Hill listened to sports lore at the knees of some of the greatest football players of his father’s generation. His father encouraged him to excel in sports, but—oddly enough—kept him out of-wee football. “I know this sounds funny,” Hill told Time, “but it was almost like being born into a royal family and being raised like a prince, being taught one day to become king. Not just how to be an athlete, but how to do things right.”
While Calvin Hill was playing for the Washington Redskins, the family moved to Reston, Virginia, an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C. An only child, Grant was raised there in a home where rules and regulations were many and privileges few. He never attended a dance or a party until he turned 16, and if his parents were not home he could not leave his neighborhood. All of his homework had to be finished before he could play sports. Hill did not particularly mind the rules, but he was often embarrassed when he was singled out because of his father’s accomplishments. Little did he know that by the time he turned 20, the mantle would be passed, and people would be asking Calvin Hill about his famous son.
Because Hill’s father would not let him play junior league football, he gravitated to basketball and chose it as his sport. The first battle of his nascent career occurred in ninth grade, when he wanted to play junior varsity with his friends, and the coach wanted him to jump right to the varsity squad. Confronted by his father and the coach, a tearful Hill explained that he did not want to bypass junior varsity because he was afraid his friends would be jealous. “I guess I always wanted to be liked by everybody,” he recalled in Sports Illustrated .“Here my father was in sports, my parents had money, and I’m thinking that if I do well in sports, people will… not like me. I didn’t want to seem better than everybody else. Eventually I realized I was better.”
After agreeing to play varsity basketball only reluctantly, Hill averaged 11 points per game as a freshman for the South Lakes High School team. During his four years of high school, his team advanced to the state finals twice. As a teenager Hill dreamed of attending nearby Georgetown University to play basketball. He changed his mind after a visit he made to the campus during his junior year of high school. The athlete told Esquire that when he visited Georgetown, “Coach [John] Thompson was there, and Miss Mary Fenlon, Georgetown’s academic adviser. We’re sitting in a room and Miss Fenlon hands me a book and says, ‘Read this.’ I was a little startled, but I took the book and started reading to myself. Then she says, ‘I meant, read out loud.’ So I started reading out loud. After a page, she stops me and says, ‘Now, tell me what you’ve read.’” Deeply—and justifiably—offended, Hill left the room vowing never to attend Georgetown.
Georgetown’s loss was Duke University’s gain. The school in Durham managed to treat Hill with respect, and he joined the Blue Devils basketball team in the fall of 1990. Playing as a freshman in the shadow of such notables as Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, Hill nonetheless made a great contribution to the team. The Blue Devils won the 1991 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national championship by beating the University of Kansas. The final score in that game was a miraculous slam by Hill, made off an erratic pass by Hurley. The following year Duke returned to the NCAA finals for a rare championship repeat. This time Hill’s performance was more noticeable, especially in the east regional final against Kentucky, when his full-court lob to Laettner allowed Duke to win at the buzzer.
Duke’s Final Four appearances with Hill were not over. In the spring of 1994 he once again led the Blue Devils into the NCAA championship game—this time without the presence of Hurley or Laettner. Hill had come to be acknowledged as the team leader, under the gentle prodding of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. The coach described Hill in Sports Illustrated as “a member of college basketball’s elite” who was merely “jumping his place in line.” Krzyzewski added: “A kid like Grant needs to be helped to get to his rightful position, to realize that he’s really that good…. He’ll always be very sensitive toward everyone else in line, even when he’s at the head of it.” Even though the 1994 Blue Devils lost the NCAA championship to Arkansas, Hill was still named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year.
No one in the Hill family was surprised when Grant Hill was chosen third in the first round of the 1994 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He inked an eight-year, $45-million contract to play ball, and almost immediately reaped significant contracts for commercial endorsements from Fila athletic wear, Sprite, Chevrolet, and other major corporations. His debut in the NBA earned more press coverage than perhaps any other player before him, and—having been raised in a sports spotlight—he accepted all the acclaim with good cheer. Describing his arrival in the NBA as a “dream come true,” he was thrilled to be treated as a peer by players he had long admired.
The first outstanding achievement in Hill’s career came midway through his first year with the Pistons. Only a rookie on a struggling team, he topped the voting for the All-Star Game—a feat that had never been duplicated, even by the likes of Jordan, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird. “The vote was a clear and unmistakable scream from the basketball public that they want something better,” wrote a columnist in the Washington Post .” They want someone with a wonderful game who doesn’t have to beat his chest every time he dunks…. They want someone who realizes that humility and dignity are as manly as any characteristics a professional athlete can have.” At season’s end Hill was named co-Rookie of the Year, sharing honors with Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks.
Work remained to be done, however. Even with Hill’s award-winning performance, the Pistons managed only a 28-54 season in 1994-95. A new Detroit coach, Doug Collins, put extra pressure on Hill to be just what the pundits expected him to be—another Michael Jordan. Eventually coach and player came to a better understanding of one another. “Grant doesn’t have the killer instinct in scoring that [Jordan] has,” Collins told Sports Illustrated. “He can dominate a game more subtly, by getting the ball to open people, by rebounding and, with two dribbles, getting his team into the open floor the way Magic [Johnson] did as a rookie.” Indeed, with the “Be Like Mike” campaign officially terminated, Hill led the Pistons to a 1996 playoff appearance.
The first year that Hill earned the most votes for an All-Star Game, Jordan was not an active player. In 1995-96, however, Jordan had returned with all of his considerable talents in tow. Nevertheless, the personable Hill once again topped the All-Star balloting, narrowly beating Jordan by approximately 17,000 votes. At the same time, the Kelloggs cereal company put an action shot of Hill—and a wealth of career information—on 4.5 million boxes of Frosted Mini-Wheats, one of the company’s most popular cereals. As Mark Heisler noted in the Los Angeles Times, “An NBA, awash in post-adolescent monsters, finally has a prospect in the tradition of Magic Johnson, with an electrifying game and a head that isn’t expanding to keep pace.”
In the summer of 1996 Hill brought his talents to a new venue: the Olympics. Perhaps the best known member of Dream Team III, he helped to keep America on the pinnacle as the nation with the best men’s basketball team. Fame and wealth have done little to change Grant Hill, however. He lives modestly in Michigan and describes himself as “tight” with his money. He does not smoke and has never touched alcohol. He once told the Boston Globe: “I live a very boring life. Eat. Sleep. Play basketball. Watch ESPN…. The only thing I know is Detroit Pistons basketball.”
“Boring” his life may be, but Hill would not change it. “It just seems like yesterday I was in high school, pretending I was Julius Erving and pretending I was Isiah Thomas and pretending I was Michael Jordan,” he admitted in the Los Angeles Times . “Now in some way I’m kind of in their shoes, in the sense that people do the same with me—I guess. So I’m told. It’s just hard to believe.”
Boston Globe, December 1, 1994, p. 79.
Esquire, February 1995, p. 60.
GQ, April 1995, p. 170.
Los Angeles Times, January 5, 1995, p. C1.
People, January 23, 1995, p. 74.
Sports Illustrated, February 1, 1993, p. 58; January 22, 1996, p. 59.
Time, February 13, 1995, p. 78.
USA Today, December 6,1994, p. CI; May 18,1995, p. B5, C3; January 26, 1996, p. C1.
USA Today Weekend, December 18, 1994, p. 4.
Washington Post, February 12, 1995, p. Dl.
American basketball player
Grant Hill has a rare combination of size, speed, and ball-handling skills that set him apart. Able to create his own shots, Hill averaged more than twenty points per game during five of his first six seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA); he averaged 19.9 points per game his rookie year. After four years as a star player at Duke University, Hill spent his first six seasons in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons. In 2000 he accepted an offer to join the Orlando Magic, but an ankle injury kept him off the floor for all but a handful of games during the next two seasons.
and was an All-Pro player for the Dallas Cowboys. His mother, Janet, a successful attorney and consultant, attended Wellesley College where she shared a suite of rooms with Hillary Rodham Clinton. The family moved to Washington, D.C. when Hill's father was traded to the Redskins, and Hill grew up in Reston, Virginia, an upper-middle-class suburb. An only child, Hill grew up amidst fame, wealth, and privilege. A Porsche and a Mercedes were parked in the driveway, and well-known entertainers, athletes, and politicians were frequent house guests.
Hill was never comfortable with his privileged position in life. "I've always just wanted to blend in and be like everybody else," he told Sporting News. "I didn't want anybody, especially my friends, thinking I was better than them. I just wanted to be a down-to-earth guy and have my own identity." So Hill seldom mentioned that he was Calvin Hill's son and preferred to be picked up from school in the family's third car, an old Volkswagen. When Hill's father came to his school to talk to the student body, Hill, an eighth-grader at the time, feigned illness and retreated to the nurse's office rather than endure the extra attention. At home, Hill was under strict rules set out by his parents, including no phone calls until the weekend, and then only one a day.
Naturally inclined to sports, Hill played soccer and basketball. His father refused to allow him to play football until high school, but by then, Hill was dedicated to basketball. At the age of thirteen his summer league team upset a Detroit team, whose players included future NBA players Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. As a freshman at South Lakes High School in Reston, Hill was asked to skip junior varsity and join the varsity team. Hill balked; he didn't want to leave his friends behind, but his father insisted and Hill reluctantly consented. During his high school years Hill lived for basketball. When he wasn't playing, he would spend hours reviewing tapes of NBA and college games. As a senior he averaged thirty points per game. His father hoped Hill would go to the University of North Carolina, and his mother was counting on nearby Georgetown University. Hill decided on Duke University.
The Duke Years
As a freshman at Duke, Hill joined an already talented team that included Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. The team rumbled through the regular season and captured the 1991 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship by beating the University of Kansas in the final game, with Hill delivering a highlight-film, one-handed slam to clinch the win. The following year, with Laettner and Hurley both returning, the Blue Devils were able to repeat the success of the previous year and once again won the NCAA title. Hill's outstanding moment came in the final seconds of the East Regional final against Kentucky. The lead changed several times during the final minutes of the game, and with 1.4 seconds left and down by one, Hill made a perfect pass from under the Kentucky basket to hit Laettner at the free throw line at the other end. Laettner's buzzer-beater ensured the team's advancement to the 1992 finals.
During his freshman and sophomore years, Hill averaged 11.2 and 14.0 points per game, respectively. After Laettner and Hurley both graduated in 1992, Hill became the team's leader. During his junior year, he averaged 18.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Although as a senior Hill led his team back to his third NCAA championship game in 1994, the Blue Devils fell to Arkansas. Averaging 17.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game, Hill was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and First Team All-American.
|1972||Born October 5 in Dallas, Texas|
|1990-94||Star forward for the Duke University Blue Devils|
|1994||Drafted by the Detroit Pistons|
|1999||Marries Grammy-nominated singer Tamia|
|1999-2000||Averages career-high 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game|
|2000||Joins Orlando Magic; injures ankle, requiring three surgeries|
|2002||Attempts to return to regular play with limited success due to nagging injuries|
Popular NBA Star
Hill was selected by the Detroit Pistons as the third overall pick of the 1994 NBA draft, signing an eight-year contract worth $45 million. He also signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Fila. Originally contracting with Fila for $6 million a year, in 1997 Hill resigned with the athletic wear company for $80 million over seven years. During his rookie season Hill averaged 19.9 points and 5.0 assists per game. Always a crowd favorite, he became the first rookie ever to lead the league in voting for All-Star Game, and he was named the 1995 co-Rookie of the Year, with Jason Kidd , and to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. During the 1995-96 season Hill continued to post excellent numbers and once again led all players in votes for the All-Star Game.
Over the next several seasons, Hill continued to lead the Pistons. Although the team was not competitive in the postseason, Hill earned a reputation as one of the most athletically gifted players in the NBA. Because he didn't drink, smoke, party, use excessive foul language, or cause trouble on or off the court, he was also living up to his reputation as the ultimate NBA "good guy." During a time when the media was raving against the numerous incidents of bad behavior by players in and out of uniform, Hill's good manners and self-effacing attitude was a breath of fresh air for the NBA's image.
The 1997-98 season proved challenging for Hill, who struggled with the team's poor record, 37-45, and the controversial firing of Piston coach Doug Collins. During the 1999 player lockout Hill was criticized by other players for not taking a strong enough stand in favor of the NBA players' union. Despite the feeling the pressure of his position as leader of a losing team, Hill continued to play well, scoring more 21 points per game in both the 1997-98 and 1998-1999 seasons. During the 1999-2000 season the Pistons made it into the playoffs, with Hill averaging a career-high 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game.
Sidelined by Injury
Injury struck Hill at the end of the 1999-2000 season. He missed the last three games of the season due to a bruised bone in his left foot. Although he returned for the playoffs against the Miami Heat, in the second game of the series he broke his left ankle. As a free agency in 2000, Hill accepted an offer to join the Orlando Magic, but only played in four regular season games during the 2000-01 season. He was voted to start the NBA All-Star Game but sat out due to his injury. Hill continued to struggle with injury during the 2001-02 season, sitting out all but fourteen regular season games. By the beginning of the 2002-03 season Hill was making his third comeback attempt after undergoing three surgeries on his left ankle, but he is not pain-free and uncertainty lingers whether he can ever return to the spectacular player that he once was.
Hill married Grammy-nominated singer Tamia on July 24, 1999. Their first child, daughter Myla Grace, was born on February 11, 2002. Hill has often made good on his "good guy" reputation, including serving as the vice-chairperson of the 1999 Special Olympic World Games, donating $1 million to Duke University, and $50,000 to benefit Child Abuse Prevention. If Hill's injuries keep him from returning to prime form, he has nonetheless graced the NBA with his fluid, athletic play and his demeanor as an all-round nice guy, making him one of the most popular players in the league.
|DET: Detroit Pistons; ORL: Orlando Magic.|
Address: Orlando Magic, PO Box 76, Orlando, Florida 32801.
Contemporary Black Biography. Volume 13. Detroit: Gale, 1996.
Contemporary Heroes and Heroines. Book III. Detroit: Gale, 1998.
Newsmakers 1995, Issue 4. Detroit: Gale, 1995.
Sports Stars, Series 1-4. Detroit: U•X•L, 1994-98.
Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.
Addy, Steve. "A Changed Man." Sporting News (April 12, 1999): 18.
Albom, Mitch. "Yes, Grant Hill Has Found Rejection Before as We Found Out in this Q & A." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (February 5, 1999).
Brewer, Jerry. "Grant Hill Appears to be His Old Self Again." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (September 16, 2002).
Chandler, Charles. "Ex-Duke Star Grant Hill, Shoe Company Will Aid Detroit Youth." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (August 17, 1994).
Deveney, Sean. "Better? You Bet." Sporting News (March 6, 2000): 12.
Farley, Christopher John. "Gentleman Slam Dunker." Time (February 13, 1995): 78.
Geffner, Michael P. "The Name of the Father." Sporting News (January 16, 1995): 24.
Gutierrez, Israel. "Bad Ankle Has Grant Hill in Regressive State." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (November 23, 2002).
McCallum, Jack. "The Man." Sports Illustrated (November 25, 1996): 40.
"NBA Star Grant Hill and Wife, Singer Tamia, Tell How They Balance Married Life and Busy Careers." Jet (October 30, 2000): 14.
Samuels, Allison, and Mark Starr. "Grant's Hill to Climb." Newsweek (October 21, 2002): 58.
Sharp, Drew. "Grant Hill Begins to Appear as Villain." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (July 6, 2000).
Singleton, John. "Grant Hill: Basketball's New Big Thing." Interview (April 1995): 96.
Stoda, Greg. "Duke's Grant Hill: Everybody's All-American." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (December 10, 1993).
Vincent, Charlie. "Hill's Record 1,289,585 Votes Will Go Down in All-Star History." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (January 26, 1995).
Zinser, Lynn. "Grant Hill's Gifts: It's Dad's Talent, Mom's Demeanor." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (March 16, 1994).
"Grant Hill." National Basketball Association. http://www.nba.com/ (December 11, 2002)
"Grant Hill." Sports Stats.com. http://www.sportsstats.com/bball/national/players/1990/Grant_Hill/ (December 10, 2002).
Sketch by Kari Bethel
Awards and Accomplishments
|1991-92||Won back-to-back National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament championships as a member of the Duke Blue Devils|
|1993||Named NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year|
|1994||Named Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year, First Team All ACC, and NCAA First Team All American; selected third overall in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the Detroit Pistons.|
|1995||Named NBA co-Rookie of the Year and First Team All Rookie|
|1995-98, 2000-02||Named NBA All Star|
|1997||Received the IBM Award; named First Team All NBA|