The Original Kingby Derek James (blogger for Howlin’ T-Wolf )
If you’re reading this and were born in the mid-90s or later, you may not believe this, but Grant Hill should be one of the NBA’s all-time greats, and perhaps a top-3 all-time small forward. If you were born prior to that time, you already know. You already know Grant could score (Although not a gifted three point shooter), pass, rebound and make a few plays on defense. You also have no problem believing that Hill was the NBA’s rookie of the year once upon a time and even finished 3rd in the 1997 MVP voting.
If your earliest memories of Grant are of the stories of his ankles betraying his talent, or the MRSA and “Gay’ isn’t a synonym for stupid” PSA’s, then I feel sorry for you. You can blame your parents for making you late to the party. I mean, Hill totaled 29 triple-doubles within his first 3 years of being in the Association and averaged 20-6-6 (points-rebounds-assists) three times, highlighted by his ’95-’96 season where he posted a remarkable 20.2 ppg, 9.8 rbg and 6.9 apg. And that wasn’t even the season he was top-3 in MVP voting.
To put it simply for the youngsters, Hill was LeBron James Lite, with James edging Hill slightly in scoring and certainly as defender (I said Hill was a good defender in his heyday, but James is just that good now.) Don’t believe me? Through six seasons, the two forwards numbers are strikingly similar.
Much of the difference in scoring between the two’s first six seasons can be attributed to LeBron attempting and making an equivalent amount more, and obviously their shooting percentages are identical. In Hill’s sixth, and perhaps best season, he nearly matches LeBron’s sixth season:
Now, LeBron has that one of a kind freak athleticism and versatility that separates him from Hill, too. But each was a three tool player that was capable of posting some gaudy numbers. Oh, you know how I told you how Grant Hill had 29 triple doubles in three seasons? Yeah, LeBron has 32…in nine. That’s more than most players ever get, but I just want to make sure I frame exactly how good Grant Hill was.
Ok, fine. You missed out on Grant Hill’s prime, but you get LeBron instead, so you’re not doing that badly. Just remember just how special Hill was before ankle injuries plagued him in Orlando. Then remember how he battled through them when everyone thought his career was over to playing all 82 games in ‘09 and is now beginning his 18th NBA season at the age of 40, which is a remarkable feat for, not just those of us who watched his career sidetracked by injury, but for any player.
Off of the court, Hill was a star with several endorsements of his own. He had his own FILA signature shoes and was a spokesman for Sprite and McDonald’s. Yes kids, it was legal in the mid 90s to do things like have children ride in the front seat and have athletes endorse fast food. Anyway, Hill even had a cameo in the sitcom “Home Improvement“, which was a big deal in ’98; ask your older siblings.
I won’t even end this by saying that Grant was a special player, because you have to be a special kind of player to have the career longevity that he has. Despite those three seasons of injuries Hill has never played fewer than 28 minutes per game in his career and has played 70 or more games three of the last four seasons while still being very productive. Not only that, but he’s improved that three point shot that was his bugaboo early in his career as it’s gone on.
His career may not have gone how we may have thought it would, but it won’t end how we thought it would either. And with that, I’ll leave with this video of Grant Hill dropping a triple-double on the Lakers.
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All stats gathered from Basket-Reference.