Box & One With Grant Hill

By Wesley Chism Jr.
Updated: November 18, 2007

SEATTLE — In my life, as it relates to sports, there have only been a few times that I’ve wept (cried) which I’m not ashamed to talk about. Seeing the original “Brian’s Song” movie, you know the one with Billy Dee Williams?

Listening by the radio as Sugar Ray Leonard reclaimed his title against Roberto Duran. Learning the importance of wearing a cup while playing baseball and watching Grant Hill breaking his ankle.

He was in the first year of his new contract during the 2000-01 season with the Orlando Magic by way of the Detroit Pistons. He only played in four regular season games before the injury averaging 13 point per game.

I remember at the time it really didn’t seem like anything out of the norm and my first thoughts were that it was a simple sprain and he would be back in a couple of days but nothing could’ve been further from the truth.

Grant had to have season ending surgery to repair the medial malleolus, which is the inside bone of his left ankle. It’s almost the identical injury that forced Philadelphia 76ers Guard Andrew Toney into an early retirement. Despite the injury, Hill had so much game that he was selected as a starter in the 2001 NBA All-Star game.

As it turns out the injury itself was the least of his problems, his life really became threaten while occurring a staff infection about four days after the surgery. “It was the closest that I had ever come to death,” said Hill.

He came back during the 2001-02 season and only played 14 games before having surgery again on the same ankle. This process was repeated again during the 2002-03 season after starting 29 games for the Magic.

“It was truly a tough time for me, I had to do a lot of soul searching and really dig deep to determine how I wanted to be measured as a man,” said Grant. He spent the entire 2002-03 season on the injured reserve list.

What many people didn’t know was that his lucrative contract was guaranteed; he could’ve taken the money and just walked away. I don’t think that anyone would’ve blamed him.

“Quitting is not in my DNA and I knew that I could still compete at this level and needed to go about the rehabbing process the correct way and time was truly the difference maker,” Hill added.

“Many people had counted me out, family and friends alike; they didn’t give me a chance. I kept focused on the daily little things that needed to be done, measured my success daily and know I’m here.”

Don’t call it a comeback; he’s been here for years, rocking’ his peers putting other opponents in fear. When Grant Hill steps on the court it is serious business and there ain’t no half stepping.

During the 2004-05 season he started in all 67 games for the Orlando Magic averaging 19.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 3.3 apg. He shot a career best from the floor and the line and ranked 15th in NBA field goal percentage.

Hill was voted to the NBA All-Star game as a starter for the Eastern Conference and also won the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award.

At press time, in his 12th NBA season, Hill is averaging 14.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 2.6 apg in his first season with the Phoenix Suns. “We are still getting our team chemistry together and learning how to work with each other”, said Hill.

“The ability to anticipate the movement of a teammate and pass the ball to an open space knowing that you guy is going to be there is priceless and that’s just something that comes with time.”

Grant isn’t surprised about being in the starting lineup, “If I’m dressed and in uniform then you better believe that I’m prepared to play. We’ve got a veteran team that knows how to pull it out during certain times of the game and execute the offense to pull out a win even when we are not playing our best,” said Grant.

“I’m still learning the offense and it’s been working pretty well for me but we all can get better as a unit,” he added.

If the Phoenix Suns go to the NBA Finals this year it will be because of the addition of Grant Hill. I don’t say that to take away anything from the other players on the squad, it’s just that he really is that special.