Grant Hill Retires After 19 Year Career

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Grant Hill, the oldest active player in the NBA, has officially announced his retirement.  Drafted in 1994 by the Detroit Pistons with the 3rd overall pick, Hill would go onto win the Rookie of the Year Award (which he shared with Jason Kidd, who fittingly announced his retirement shortly after Hill).  His career would be marked by flashes of brilliance and tragic setbacks and would see Hill leave for the Orlando Magic, before heading to Phoenix to play with Steve Nash and the Suns before eventually leaving to play in Los Angeles where he finished his career with the Clippers.

 

Grant Hill, as a member of the Pistons he lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals thee times.  The only player to accomplish that.

Grant Hill, as a member of the Pistons he lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals thee times. The only player to accomplish that.

Whilst playing for the Pistons, Hill would reached a level of play few NBA players have, leading his team in: scoring, rebounds, assists and steals for two straight seasons, starting with his sophomore year.  He did this for a third season as well, and is the only player to lead his team in those categories more than once.  He also became the first player since Larry Bird to average more than 20 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, an accomplishment which has not been duplicated since, not even by LeBron James.  He also led the league in triple-doubles in 95/96 season.  His years in Detroit were a disappointment, though, as the team never moved past the first round of the playoffs.

 

In 2000 Hill opted to use his free agency status to leave Detroit and sign with the Orlando Magic.  Hill’s decision was obviously not popular in Detroit, but Hill wanted to be put in a position to win.  Ironically Hill’s aspirations for a championship were derailed by injury whilst the sign-and-trade deal Joe Dumars worked out upon Hill’s departure allowed Detroit to land Ben Wallace, the cornerstone for Detroit 2004 championship team and four-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner.  Injuries plagued Hill in Orlando for several season, tragically cutting short the prime years of a player who was maturing into one of the best players the game had ever seen.  Hill had, after all, accomplished statistical feats that even Michael Jordan and LeBron James had not accomplished.

 

Windsor, Ontario native Tamia, is a Grammy nominated vocalist and wife to Grant Hill.

Windsor, Ontario native Tamia, is a Grammy nominated vocalist and wife to Grant Hill.

In his first four seasons with the Magic, Hill played only 47 games and missed the entire 2003/04 season after getting major surgery done, during which he developed a life threatening methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection that almost killed him.  He would return to play 67 games for the Magic in his fifth season with the team, more games than his four years combined, and posted All-Star calibre numbers that season and was awarded a starting position on the All-Star team.  The following season was another setback though as Hill played only 21 games.  Regaining his health, but entering the twilight of his career, Hill would move to the Phoenix Suns where he would, for the first time in his career, get out of the first round of the playoffs.  His finals season, though pursued by several contenders, Hill opted to play with the Clippers, but disappointment followed as the Clippers suffered an injury to Blake Griffin and were defeated in the first round.

 

Grant Hill with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Grant Hill with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Though his professional career seemed to be hampered by disappointment, Hill’s amateur career is unmatched.  Playing for the Duke Blue Devils, Hill won two national titles with Duke and led them to a third NCAA finals appearance, despite the fact that two key players from their championship team had left for the NBA.  At Duke, Hill became the only collegiate player to amass more than 1,900 points, 700 rebounds, 400 assists, 200 steals and 100 blocked shots.  At the Olympics Hill would see similar success, winning a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.

 

Grant Hill posing alongside one of his three Joe Dumars Trophies, a former teammate of Hill and Hill's GM in 2000.

Grant Hill posing alongside one of his three Joe Dumars Trophies, a former teammate of Hill and Hill’s GM in 2000.

Hill’s career was about more than winning an on court performance.  Though Hill won the Rookie of the Year award, made the All-NBA team 5 times (1 first team nod and 4 second team nods) and also made 7 All-Star appearances, coupled with his college accolades that saw him earn ACC Player of the Year as well as NABC Defensive Player of the Year, it is perhaps the fact that he is the only player to have 3 NBA Sportsmanship Awards that speaks to Hill’s character more than anything.  Hill has conducted himself professionally on the court, and off the court, making philanthropy one of his primary objectives during his career and participating in many social outreach programs.  As to his Hall of Fame Status, some may believe that injuries may impact whether he gets in or not, but it seems clear to me that with an unequaled college career alone, Hill would be a first ballot Hall of Fame player.  His conduct on and off the court, as well as the high level of play he displayed early in his career, coupled with the perseverance required to come back from such brutal injuries and return to All-Star level play, ensures that Hill belongs in the Hall of Fame, and certainly on the first ballot when you consider his longevity.  Hill was a rare talent, and a great person and the NBA needs more players like him.  My hope is that there are many more like him in the future, but part of what makes Hill so special is how rare players and people like him are.

 

 

Below: one of the mos memorable moments in sports history, of which Hill was a integral part.

 

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