Grant Hill: The Rejuvenation of an All-Star

by Cody Cunningham

Grant Hill was one of the most decorated college athletes the NCAA had ever seen, but injuries in the NBA made for a bumpy road on his way to Springfield.

Hill was a member of the Duke Blue Devils during one of their most historic runs in school history. They won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1991 and 1992. Hill followed up being named consensus second-team All-American in 1993 to being named consensus first-team All-American in 1994.

He received the Henry Iba Corinthian Award during his junior year as the nation’s top defender. His final year in school he led Duke to another championship game as he was named the 1994 ACC Player of the Year.

Hill did it all while at Duke becoming the first ACC player ever to put up more than 1,900 points, 700 rebounds, 400 assists, 200 steals and over 100 blocks. 

Jared Dudley Congratulates Grant Hill

After his highly successful college career, it was no surprise when the Detroit Pistons selected him third overall in the 1994 draft.

The 22-year-old rookie shined from the start scoring 25 points in his first-career game to go along with his ten rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.

He ended his first year in the league averaging 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.8 steals and almost a block a game. He was named Co-Rookie of the Year alongside Hall of Fame classmate Jason Kidd. 

Hill was an NBA All-Star the first four years of his career and by his sixth season was averaging over 25 points per game. He finished top 10 in MVP voting five of his first six seasons, including third in 1996-97.

The six-foot-five small forward was becoming one of the greatest players the league had ever seen. Only Larry Bird, LeBron James and Oscar Robertson eclipsed at least 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists at a quicker rate.

Grant Hill: 2018 Hall of Fame

This was until a sign-and-trade landed him in a Magic uniform and his career took an unfortunate turn. Orlando looked to be in a great situation putting Hill in a lineup next to Tracy McGrady, but even they couldn’t predict what was to come.

A nagging ankle injury would only allow Hill to play in four games in his first season on the Magic, but it didn’t stop there. The next season he only played 14 games. This was followed up by only 29 games. By his fourth year with the team, he missed the entire season due to his ankle.

It would take until his fifth season in Orlando to return to his old form and make it back to the All-Star game. However, by the next season the injury bug bit him yet again and he was only able to play in 21 games.

After one final season with the Magic, it looked to be time for both sides to move on.

Enter the Phoenix Suns.

Grant Hill Reflects on His Years in a Suns Uniform

At 35-years-old, Suns fans may not have known what they were going to get out of the injury-ridden small forward, but the renowned training staff of the team went to work. 

After going through the injuries that he faced in the previous seasons, his tenure with the Suns was nothing short of incredible.

Hill instantly fit it as one of the leaders of the franchise alongside Hall of Fame classmate Steve Nash. He became a fan favorite quickly earning himself the Dan Majerle Hustle Award in his first season, and more importantly, playing 70 games (he would go on to win the award again in 2010-11).

By the next season, he upped that total to a perfect 82 games. This was the first time in his entire career that he played an 82-game season and he did so at 36 years old.

Twice during his years with the Suns he had an option to leave, but ultimately stuck with the team and training staff that had him returning to a level he hadn’t been at since he was in Detroit.

Hill played a huge role in the Suns 2010 playoff run that saw the team advance to the Western Conference Finals. He became the first player in NBA history to claim his first playoff series victory after 15 years in the league.

Grant Hill Relives the '09- '10 Suns Season

He followed this up with another strong season in 2010-11. He recorded one of the greatest statistical seasons for a player 38 years or older in NBA history averaging 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his 80 starts. Only Hill, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Reggie Miller averaged at least 13 points at age 38 or older. 

Not only was Hill one of the most talented players in NBA history, but his on-the-court behavior earned him the NBA Sportsmanship Award three times throughout his career (2004-05, 2007-08, 2009-10). 

The five-time All-NBA and seven-time All-Star remains one of the biggest “what-ifs” in basketball history, but his time spent on the court still provided one of the most thrilling players the sport has ever seen. 

As Hill is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his time in Phoenix is not soon to be forgotten. The revival of an All-Star that led to his first playoff series victory is the topping on the cake to his historic and legendary career.

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