Hall of Famer Grant Hill is the greatest basketball player to ever play at Duke University. He won back-to-back championships with the Blue Devils in 1991 and 1992, helping Duke become the first team since UCLA in 1973 to achieve that feat. Hill led the Blue Devils back to the National Championship in 1994, but the team fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks.
In 1994, Hill was drafted by the Detriot Pistons with the third pick in the draft. He was later named the Co-Rookie of the Year, along with Dallas Mavericks rookie Jason Kidd for the 1994-95 season. In just his third season (1996-97) in the league, Hill averaged 21.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game, becoming the first player since Larry Bird in 1989-90 to average 20 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in a season—a feat that hasn’t been matched until now-Rockets guard Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2016-17 season.
In his first six seasons in the league, Hill led the Pistons to the playoffs three times (1996, 1997 and 1999) but didn’t get very far. In 2000, the Pistons signed and traded Hill in a deal with the Orlando Magic for Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace, according to CBS News. They later paired Hill with rising superstar Tracy McGrady, who also signed a $92.8 million contract for seven years just like Hill. During Hill’s last season in Detroit, he suffered a sprained ankle against the Philadephia 76ers late in the season, and it continued to nag him up until game two against the Miami Heat in the first round, when he had to leave the game. It later turned out to be a broken ankle.
Back on April 27, 2011, Hill was a guest on Jason Whitlock’s Real Talk podcast on FOXSportsradio.com and revealed that he felt the Pistons’ medical staff mismanaged his injury because of Pistons legend Isiah Thomas playing on an injured ankle against the Lakers in the Finals in 1988.
“I (had been) told everything was fine. I even found out that certain team doctors were questioning whether I was really hurt, thinking I was soft or whatever,” Hill told Whitlock. “This was after I had pulled myself from Game 2 against the Heat. At that time, when I found out I had broken my ankle, as crazy as this sounds, I was relieved. I finally had some confirmation, I finally had proof that I’m really not making it up.”
“There was a standard in Detroit, and that standard was Isiah,” Hill said. “He grew up in Chicago. He was tough. He played hurt. He had that great game against the Lakers in the Finals (on a twisted ankle). He was the face of the franchise, and I’m sort of the exact opposite. I’m sure there were Isiah supporters within the organization. Who knows? I can only speculate. But it was like no matter what I did, it wasn’t as good as Isiah … I wasn’t trying to prove how tough I am. I was just trying to win.”
Stephen A. Smith Praises Hall of Famer Grant Hill
“One of the greatest tragedies in the history of basketball, in my opinion, is that Grant Hill had that nasty ankle injury that could not overcome in the pros. [Michael] Jordan is Jordan, and we get that, but it wouldn’t have just been Kobe [Bryant] challenging the greatness of Michael Jordan if Grant Hill never got hurt,” said national sports commentator Stephen A. Smith. “If Grant Hill would have been able to stay healthy, especially once Tracy McGrady had arrived in Orlando with him. I’m telling y’all right now, Grant Hill was one of the most sensational players you had ever seen. This Brotha was special, and if he had never got hurt, I would have loved to see what he would have done on the pro level. That was how great Grant Hill was.”