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Everybody in Detroit called him “The Man” because he always was a leader and the to-go person in any tough moment of the game. Some people called him “The Gentleman” because he was a genuinely nice person with respect for the game and for others. Joe Dumars, a member of the legendary 1989-1990 Detroit Pistons team, once declared “He is the best player I’ve seen coming into the league for years”. Road to history was wide open for Grant, but luck had some other plans for his career. This is the story of Grant Hill, a story about having faith, patience and love for the game of basketball.
Grant Henry Hill was born on October 5th, 1972 in Dallas, Texas but he grew up in Reston, Virginia. His father, Calvin Hill was a running back for the Dallas Cowboys. Even though his family was wealthy, he didn’t the other kids to know about it. He was really proud of his father being a famous professional athlete, but he was also embarrassed about it. When he was in eighth grade, his father gave a speech all the students, but he didn’t go. He faked illness and hid in the nurse’s office, saying that he didn’t want to seem to be better than everybody else. That is how humble he was.
Grant first started playing soccer, but by twelve, he had grown to six feet. That is when he started playing basketball. He became really good and he led his high-school team to two state championships. He then earned an athletic scholarship to play for the well-known Duke University. He led Duke to back-to-back championships and he had his “number 33” jersey retired. After he graduated, he entered the 1994 NBA Draft picks. He was picked by the Detroit Pistons as the 3rd overall draft pick.
Everybody had high expectations about him, they were seeing in him a new leader, a new beginning for the Pistons. He didn’t prove anybody wrong. He started at the 1995 all-star game after becoming the first rookie ever to lead all players in fan voting. Along with Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks, were co-voted as the Rookie Players of the Year. In the next four seasons, he started in all all-star games and averaged 23.2 Points Per Game, 7.6 Rebounds Per Game and 6.7 Assist Per Game.
The first shadows in his career appear in 2000.
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Everybody was talking about Orlando’s dynamic duo, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. They thought that this was going to be their year, but they were wrong. By playing in just four games for his new team, Grant suffered extreme pain. So he has a second surgery on that same ankle, were a piece of bone from his hip was grafted to his ankle. In December 2001, he has a third operation because his bone spurs had inflamed the joint. People started wondering why doesn’t he just quit? He was already multimillionaire, why does he have to put his health into jeopardy? But Grant had a different opinion. He just couldn’t wait for the time to come to get back on the court and play the game he loves the most.
Orlando was on a potential good start on that season, but Grant Hill wasn’t Orlando’s superstar anymore. The team was moving around its new leader, Tracy McGrady. With veteran point guard Darrel Armstrong and with the additions of Patrick Ewing and Bo Outlaw, the team was on a really promising season. He played 29 games on 2003 season before soreness forced to sit out for the season again. The doctors found a new crack on his vulnerable left ankle.
He had his fourth operation in March 2003. He went to Dr. James Nunley at Duke who took all the screws off of ankle, broke his heel and then removed a wedge of bone to relieve some of the pressure he’s ankle was going through. He solidified the joint with a new plate and five four-inch screws.* Like all the things he went through weren’t enough, he had some side-effects from the operation. He had developed a staph infection. He then underwent a seven-hour surgery, his fifth one, where doctors grafted a skin and muscles from his triceps to patch up his ankle. His wife asked him to stop playing basketball because he was putting his life in danger, but his thirst for the game was bigger than his wife’s will.
He was so strong mentally that he just couldn’t stand the idea of letting his ankle make him stop playing basketball. It was personal now. He had to make his comeback. He didn’t care how long it was going to take , he was going to come back. This time, he didn’t rush it. He swam hundreds and hundreds of laps in the pool in order his ankle to grow stronger. He took as much time as his ankle needed.
The 2005 season opened on October 3rd. Orlando Magic hosted the Milwaukee Bucks. The lights in the arena had been turn off. A man on the speaker announces the starting lineups of the teams. It was time to announce the name of the Small Forwards for the Orlando Magic. His name, Grant Hill, from Duke at 6”8 feet and 225 pounds. He was present, and he had a huge impact on the game. He had scored 20 points, and the Magic had beat the Bucks by one point, ninety-three to ninety-two.
It doesn’t matter to him that because of his multiple injuries, he lost the chance of being a Hall of Famer in the NBA, but with an appearance like that he let the whole world know that, he is back and that is all that matters to him.