Today, Grant Hill is the second oldest player in the NBA. He has just signed a contract to play for his 4th team — the Los Angeles Clippers. At one time, Grant Hill was the next Michael Jordan.
The acclaim started early for Grant. Hill was a McDolands High School All-American. The son of two well-educated parents, he had his pick of schools when it came time to choice a college. His mother wanted him to attend Georgetown. His father wanted Grant at North Carolina. Hill chose Duke. This would be the beginning of my early disdain for Grant Hill.
It ended up being a solid choice to say the least. He, and his Duke teammates, appeared in two national championship games in the mid-90s. For me, it was the rise of the vaunted Blue Devils. This was before the 24-hour SportsCenter news cycle. But it seems that ESPN and other outlets have not stopped talking about Duke basketball since Hill was in Durham. It feels that way at least.
By the time the 1994 NBA Draft rolled around, Hill was a top prospect once again. Hill was taken 3rd overall by the Detroit Pistons — historically another unlikable outfit. Over his first two seasons Hill would average just over 20 points per game. He was living up to his billing as a potential superstar.
Then in 1996 the Pistons franchise changed the team colors from its traditional red, white, and blue to teal, burgundy, gold and black. Among Pistons fans, this period has become known as the “teal era.” Holy hell, those uniforms were ugly. Two years later, by 1998, Hill had caught the injury bug. From that time on, his career would not be the same.
Leading up to that year, Hill was billed as the next Michael Jordan. Seeing is believing — just take a look at this SLAM magazine cover:
Personally, I was never a fan of Hill. I was 10-years-old, but I didn’t like this hype. I guess I was a dickhead even then. Michael bleeping Jordan?! There is no next Michael Jordan, 10-year-old me thought.
How does a 10-year-old chose who to root for, though? I know the teal era Pistons jersey didn’t help. I didn’t want to rock a hideous Pistons jersey. Which is ironic because I was happy to wear a teal Grizzlies jersey or those new Timberwolves threads.
Speaking of jerseys — one jersey I would not wear is that of the Duke Blue Devils. That said, during his time in Durham, Hill was seen as a winner. Of course, he had a tremendous cast of teammates surrounding him. Hill’s NBA career has not followed that same trajectory. Not at all. It took until 2009-10 for Hill to make it past the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Looking back, given the hype, Hill could be considered one of the bigger busts of the past two decades. It just depends on your definition of “bust.”