Grant Hill retires after fulfilling career


Grant Hill had much to celebrate after advancing to the second round for the first time in his career. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Grant Hill, always the model teammate, retired after 19 NBA seasons this weekend. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Upon announcing his retirement from basketball yesterday, Grant Hill possesses no shortage of memories when he wants to reminisce about his basketball life.

Starting with the pass to Laettner to the Fila/Sprite and Dream Team III days when he was a triple-double threat every time he laced them up, Hill’s early career placed him among the best to play the game.

Yet if Hill had never gotten hurt and continued on that trajectory he never would have become a Phoenix Sun and perhaps never would have been able to learn as much about himself as he did through the injury-filled years of misery and finally the redemption in the final act of his career with the Suns.

After logging at least 30 games only twice in seven years in Orlando due to his treacherous ankle injury among other issues — maladies that allowed him to play just 47 games in his first four years with the Magic — Hill turned into an iron man with the Suns, missing just three games in the three seasons between 2008-11 despite being well into his 30s. To make this a reality he put in more time to get his body right than any player Suns trainer Aaron Nelson has ever worked with, Nelson said a few years ago.

In his time with the Suns, he also reinvented himself from an elite scoring threat into a defensive ace who routinely guarded the Suns’ toughest opponent, from point guards to power forwards and every wing in between, and served as a role model in the locker room.

His leadership and professionalism set a tone for the post-D’Antoni Suns that culminated in Phoenix’s special 2010 run to the conference finals that Hill described as a career highlight in an interview with ESPN.com:

“Playing in Phoenix and the 2010 season, that was by far — even more so than the Duke teams — I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team that close. Our locker room, was together. I’m sure there are other teams that have that. But with egos and the money and the whole NBA, it’s hard to create that environment.

“I don’t know if it was by design or if it just happened. We might not have been the most talented group or whatever. But in terms of working together, supporting each other and enjoying one another on and off the court by hanging out, going to dinner, families involved. We were all together.

“One of the memories I have is we were playing San Antonio. They were always our nemesis. We couldn’t get past them in the playoffs. And here we are, Game 3 and Goran Dragic goes off in the fourth quarter and the main guy cheering for him is Steve [Nash]. And here’s a guy, it’s his position, and I remember Alvin [Gentry, the Suns coach] asking Steve, ‘Do you want to go in?’ And ‘No. Let him go.’ Here was our quarterback basically saying, ‘Let the backup go. He’s on fire.’ That was a special group.”

Amazingly enough, the 2010 Suns were the only team Hill played for to win a playoff series. It’s a team that will be remembered for camaraderie and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; Hill’s leadership and positive energy were a big reason why.

Overall, Hill averaged 12.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in five years as a Sun, and in 2010-11 he joined an illustrious list of stars including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Reggie Miller as the only players to average at least 13 points past the age of 37.

“On behalf of the entire Phoenix Suns organization, we would like to congratulate Grant Hill on a Hall of Fame career,” Suns owner Robert Sarver said in a release. “We all know that he was a tremendous pro, but his greatest contributions are in the example he’s set for others with his work ethic and professionalism, both on and off the court.

“He is truly a class act, and I’ve valued his friendship and respected his advice since we met. Grant is, and always will be, a member of the Suns family.”

It has long been rumored that Hill would eventually find a spot in the Suns’ front office waiting for him upon retirement, and Paul Coro wrote that Hill and his former agent Lon Babby “have begun to thaw a relationship that turned icy since last summer.”

As a respected figure around the league who speaks well and defines the word “leadership,” Hill will have no shortage of options upon retirement. A rebuilding team like the Suns would be lucky to receive Hill’s guidance at any level of the organization when he begins the next stage of his basketball career.

And 1

A few years back I analyzed Hill’s Hall-of-Fame chances:

Overall Hill’s resume includes the following honors: co-Rookie of the Year, seven-time All-Star, one All-NBA First Team, four All-NBA Second Teams, one Olympic gold medal and two college NCAA championships.

BasketballReference.com’s Hall of Fame Monitor gives Hill a score of 119, whereas a 135 denotes a likely Hall of Famer. Injuries prevented Hill’s prime from making him a definite Hall of Famer, but at this point he may be close enough for honors such as this Board of Governors seat to push him over the top.

Neil Paine evaluated Hill’s candidacy for ESPN Insider upon his retirement and came to the following conclusion:

It’s close, but I think Hill will get in. As we’ve seen with the case of Ralph Sampson, college accomplishments can weigh heavily on the minds of voters, and Hill had quite a few of those. He also had a very high peak, topping out as nearly the best player in basketball during the late 1990s, and he’ll get bonus points for the perseverance he showed in overcoming five ankle surgeries to make a successful comeback. Hill’s overall NBA résumé is probably just shy of Hall of Fame standards, but his NCAA career ought to be enough to push him over the top.

Tags: Grant Hill

  • Baldheaded Dude

    What can you say except that he was a very special player and person who is already missed in college basketball and the pros. When you hear someone try to characterize all athletes in a negative way just mention “Grant Hill” and walk away.

  • BCrayZ

    Right on “Baldheaded Dude!”

    Now he can focus on Tamia & their kids.

    Suns showed no class the way they treated him last year.

    Lies & selfishness by Babby are his standard operating procedure, even towards his long time client Grant Hill.

  • Scott

    IMO, Hill has always had difficulty listening to his body and being patient. That’s what caused him such trouble with his injuries: he’d either keep playing though injured, or he’d come back too soon, always worsening his condition.

    He had a good run with the Suns when the rest of the league had written him off. I think that was a win all around. I wanted him to stay with the Suns one more year then retire, but Blanks wanted Beasley instead.

    While it would have been much better if the Suns had Hill instead of Beasley last year, it’s also possible that if such had been the case, Blanks would still be GM and the Suns would be looking at another year of “blankness.” So I guess things happened the way they were supposed to.

  • Scott

    BTW, if the Rockets release them, players to keep an eye on for the Suns SL team would include C Greg Smith and PF/C Tim Ohlbrecht.

    Probably the Rockets would retain Smith, who has a PER of 16, but with the way they speedily retool, you never know.

  • A-Game

    Babby mentioned “respecting the past”, and dont get me wrong, hiring Hornacek was great to answer that notion, but why not continue it and bring Hill into the organization. According to Coro, Bab’s and Hill’s relationship is ‘thawing’ since it turned icy cold since last summer. How does Assistant coach sound??? Or Player development coach???

    I can totally see Hill coming in and gaining instant credibility and respect from these young players the suns have, or will have.

  • Scott

    Doesn’t Hornacek pick his assistants?

  • Ty-Sun

    Hornacek does pick his own assistants but there are other positions in the FO that Hill could move into. I think Hill might be very good at Hunter’s old job in player development.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    I agree. (In fact, I mentioned that months ago …)

  • Mel.

    Real talk, Scott. And considering that Hill’s season consisted mostly of more injuries (49 games played) and a frustrating lack of ability to get anything going with the minutes that he could secure, I can’t fault the Suns for going for the younger (If not totally underwhelming, in execution) option.

    Same for Nash. Steve’s legend in the Valley is well-earned, but the cliff is a very real threat for a player at he and Hill’s age, and once you go over it… even the voujou that our training staff do-do so well can’t bring you back to glory.