"Grant is the epitome of the person and the player that I love to coach and to have play in my basketball program at Duke Universityâ€¦ As great as he was on the court at Duke, I love Grant even more for being the way he is off the court. He is sensational. He strives to be excellent in all aspects of his life-family, profession, business, and yes, art collecting. To be good at something you have to have passion for it. Grant Hill has passion for every part of his life. I love that about him."
—Mike Krzyzewski, Head Coach Duke University
The seven-time NBA All-Star, Grant was a coach's dream. On the basketball court, he amplified the talents of his teammates and showed that he's a winner as part of two elusive NCAA Championships. At 6'8', Grant could play point guard, shooting guard and small forward with equal adeptness. He was an unselfish player, possessing a strong work ethic and demonstrating creativity with the basketball. He led with confidence, often rising to the occasion in close ball games.
Grant compiled a most impressive collegiate career at Duke University, winning back-to-back NCAA championships his freshman and sophomore years (1991 and 1992), plus a host of other national collegiate awards including the Henry Iba Corinthian Award as the nation's top defensive player (1993). In his senior year, Grant was named a unanimous first team All-American, was named to the NCAA All-Tournament and was the NCAA Southeastern Regional MVP. Additionally, Grant was Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year and led Duke in scoring (17.4 per game), minutes (35.7), assists (176) and steals (64).
A superstar emerges
After graduating from Duke, Grant was the number one pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 1994 NBA draft. He quickly became one of the most exciting and well-liked players in the league. For his first two seasons in the league, Grant led all NBA players - including Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal - in All-Star votes. The co-NBA Rookie of the Year, Grant was also a member of gold medal winning Dream Team, representing Team USA at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
After six highly productive All-Star years with the Detroit Pistons, Grant moved on, signing with the Orlando Magic in August 2000. Grant hoped to bring his intense play to the Magic, but his efforts were thwarted by an injury to his left ankle, first diagnosed at the end of the 1999-00 season. His first surgery was to repair his medial malleolus on his left ankle in April 2000. He appeared in just four games in his first season (2000-01) with the Magic before ending the season prematurely with an unhealthy ankle. He had his second surgery in January 2001 and vowed to return for the start of his second season with the Magic.
An unexpected turn
After a nine-month rehabilitation process, Grant returned to the court for the 2001-02 season. Grant started the season feeling great, which was clearly reflected in his play. He competed in 14 games, averaging 16.8 points per game (ppg), 8.9 rebounds per game (rpg.), 4.6 assists per game (apt) in 36.6 minutes per game. He led the team with five double-doubles, but in late November, he began to feel the intense pain in his ankle yet again. Testing and x-rays were performed on his ankle and in early December, Grant was placed on the injured reserve list. Shortly after, the Magic announced that Grant would be out for the remainder of the season and underwent a third surgery to remove a bone spur in his ankle.
After undergoing the third surgery, Grant rehabbed during the off-season in an effort to come back for the 2002-03 season. In the first several games of that season, Grant made a remarkable return. However, as the season progressed, his ankle regressed and by mid-January, after consulting with a team of doctors, Grant made his decision to end his season. Although the pain, heartache, and frustration were profound, Grant was more determined and committed than ever to be successful and play at a high level and opted for yet a fourth surgery on his left ankle. Because of the extensive nature of the injury and an ultimate fifth surgery due to a nearly fatal staph infection, Grant spent the entire 2003-04 season rehabilitating his ankle.
Grant fights back
During his time away from the court, Grant developed a new hunger, a desire to be more than a scorer and the desire to win. The time spent away from basketball enabled him to re-evaluate what was important to him and the best way to make use of his talents to achieve the ultimate goal. Grant used his injury as an opportunity to get better, reflecting on how he can be a better team member, watching his fellow teammates, as well as being a good leader. He used the time to dig deep into himself, analyze his game, his leadership, his role on the Magic, as well as his commitment to winning.
And then it finally happened - the start of a Magic season with a healthy Grant in the lineup. While most professional athletes would have said, "The heck with this," and just retire to a comfortable lifestyle after having five surgeries, Grant was more committed than ever. What Grant accomplished during the 2004-05 season was nothing short of miraculous. Averaging 19.7 points, shooting 50.7 percent, playing 39.4 minutes per game and making the All-Star team on his rebuilt ankle is evidence of just how magnificent a player Grant was prior to the injury. After playing just a total of 47 games the previous three seasons, Grant finally was able to stay healthy in his fourth season with the Magic. But with 10 games left in the season, Grant's ankle beginning to feel the wear and tear of a long season - playing nearly 40 minutes per game - the Magic decided to err on the side of caution and not risk damaging Grant's left ankle. As such, they placed Grant on the injured list. However, despite the early exit, Grant was able to show loyal fans and critics that he could return to a form once thought to be lost after four ankle surgeries.
For his remarkable efforts on and off the court during that season, Grant was named the 2004-05 NBA Sportsmanship Award (Joe Dumars Trophy) for his "sportsmanship, ethical behavior, fair play and integrity."
The 2005-06 season was an unfortunate one for Grant due to many injuries, causing him to become sidelined for most of the first half of the year and only being able to play 21 total games. Although Grant has battled many ankle injuries, this specific injury was diagnosed as a sports hernia due to uneven pressure on Grant's feet while running. He underwent surgery and was considering retiring, but decided to go through extensive rehab yet again and return to the Magic for another season. In the 21 games played, Grant averaged 15.1 ppg, 2.3 apt and 3.8 rpg.
In the 2006-07 season, Grant was a model of health, and for the first time as a member of the Orlando Magic, he played into April and played meaningful games, leading the team to their first playoff appearance since the 2002-03 season.
The dawn of a new era
After many enticing offers Grant signed a two-year deal with the Phoenix Suns after the free agency period began. Grant wanted to play where he could make a significant impact on the fortunes of the team, and that he did. In his 13th season in the NBA, Grant averaged a highly respectable 31.7 minutes, 5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 13.1 points per game. Another season highlight for Grant was being honored for the second time in his career as the recipient of the NBA Sportsmanship Award, marking the first time that a player has received the award more than once.
Still one of the most recognizable NBA stars, Grant continued to build upon his legacy by taking his game to another level while staying healthy. Grant has provided tenacious defense and veteran leadership that has benefited a hungry Phoenix team; helping lead them back to the playoffs and the Western Conference Finals during the 2009-10 season. In addition to the team success during the season, Grant was awarded a record third NBA Sportsmanship Award.
Grant continued his role as a team leader in the 2010-11 season, starting and playing in 80 out of 82 games and finished the season averaging 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. In late April 2011, the Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Grant was elected to serve as one of the 22 members of the Board of Governors, a group responsible for overseeing management of the Hall of Fame. Grant is the first and only active player to ever serve on the Board, where his term will last three years. Additionally, Grant was recognized by the Suns for his exemplary work ethic and leadership qualities by becoming the first two-time recipient of the Dan Majerle Hustle Award. He had previously won in the 2007-08 season.
During the 2011-12 season, The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Grant was named the winner of the highly prestigious Mannie Jackson - Basketball's Human Spirit Award. The criteria for award winners includes embracing the core values of the game through hard work, dedication, and resilience; striving to continuously improve the community they serve, and making an ongoing commitment to others. And Oprah Winfrey selected Grant to be featured in her network series Master Class which he discussed what shaped his life and the greatest lessons he learned along the way.
Leaving a legacy
After the end of the 2012-13 season, Grant announced his retirement from the NBA. "I worked hard. I put a lot into it, and I enjoyed every minute of it. But now is the time to move on. I feel great physically. It's important to go out feeling good, particularly considering all the setbacks I had health-wise throughout my career."
A gifted all-around player, Grant finished his career as one of 17 players in NBA history with over 17,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists. He played in 1,026 total NBA games (972 starts) and connected on 48.3 percent of his field goals, 31.4 percent from behind the 3-point line, and 76 percent of his free throws over his career.
Grant's overall contributions to the game of basketball continue to be recognized.