Grant Hill, the injury-plagued star who has joined the Suns in their bid for an NBA championship, tells AOL's Dave Hollander that the focus should be on winning the right way even in this "highlight generation."
DAVE HOLLANDER: What does Steve Nash mean to your game?
GRANT HILL: Steve's a great player. We all know that. He’s a great person and he’s a fun guy to be around. He's a great player who’s hungry to win a championship. Those are good qualities to have in a teammate. In the last two months I've been around him, I've been able to really appreciate his greatness. The opportunity to play with a great player like him doesn't come around often.
DH: I see you guys as peas in pod -- both very unselfish superstars, both politically outspoken, both intellectually versatile. How well did you guys know each other before this season?
GH: Not that well. Just from competing against one another. That was pretty much it. Of course, I've followed him from a far. You feel like you know somebody to a degree because you've read about them, so you know a little bit about their personality. But these last two months I've got to know him off the court. Our lockers are right next to each other. We're close in age. He’s from Canada. I married a Canadian (R&B singer Tamia). Just the opportunity to get to know him, his beliefs, his likes -- not just him but all the guys -- but Steve in particular. The relationship is still evolving. I think we’ve clicked on the court extremely well in a short period of time. And I like to think we’ve clicked off the court as well. Our families got together in training camp and we’ve gone to dinner on the road. It’s a long season so it helps to win and to be around like-minded individuals -- guys you enjoy being around during the course of the year. Steve is one of those guys.
DH: There’s been more than a little Canada in your life. In 2006, you received ankle rotation therapy from specialists in Vancouver, BC. Did you run into Steve up there?
GH: I had an injury called a "sports hernia" or athletic sports pubalgia, which means I tore the abdominal muscles off my pubic bone. It was a very difficult time. Steve has had back issue his whole career. There were two people up in Vancouver, the guy Steve works with and Alex McKechnie. They work together. Alex had worked with Shaquille and other athletes through the years who had the same injury. I did talk to Steve and got this advice on Alex and whole treatment protocol because Steve still adheres to it. And he was very helpful. While I was up in Vancouver I didn’t get a chance to see Steve but believe you me you could feel him. He had such a presence there in Vancouver, British Columbia and throughout the whole country of Canada.
DH: There’s another Grant Hill; a former Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party of Canada. The two of you have never been seen in the same room together. Can you confirm now that you’re not the same person?
GH: I wasn’t aware that there is a Canadian official with the same name. I was aware that there is a movie producer named Grant Hill. At one point he and I were staying in the same hotel. We were getting each other’s phone messages. This guy produced the Matrix films. I had some friends who went to see one of those films and they were like "Wow, I knew you were into a bunch of different things but I didn’t know you were a producing movies."
DH: Those must’ve been some interesting phone messages.
GH: Nothing outrageous but I will say this, I definitely ran with the story for a while with my friends. "Oh yeah, I was involved with the Matrix."
DH: Back to basketball. Phoenix has some great players and a great system. What's your role on this team?
GH: We're still sort of defining what those roles are. I'm the new guy. I'm the guy being added to the equation to a team that's had tremendous success. I think it's to provide leadership and versatility, be someone who can do a lot of different things on the court. On one hand I need to fit in and on the other hand do what I do. And that's what I’ve been asked to do by our coach: be versatile, score, set up, be unselfish -- to play defense, to be another weapon to help the team win. Prior to training camp, I was a little nervous. I want to assert but I don't want to mess things up. I've been very surprised how well I've been able to fit in. It's like I’ve been with these guys for three years instead of three weeks.
DH: Not because of you, but I know Shawn Marion wasn't sure if he was fitting in this offseason. Is he all set to go?
GH: Matrix is fine. I spent a lot of time with him during training camp. Once again, here's a guy I didn't know other than competition against, but he's a great guy and I think we really connected. I haven't detected anything that was written about him over the summer. He's been an unbelievable professional. Just like you see him in the games he brings that same effort and energy to practice. And he's been a great teammate. It's interesting you read one thing and then you see something totally different.
DH: You've really started to fit in locally, purchasing a home in Paradise Valley, a community where players for the Suns, Diamondbacks and other local sports franchises reside. You must have a heckuva waffle ball game at your block party.
GH: I haven't met too many of my professional sports colleagues. The reason we moved there was because we got our daughter into a great school and we wanted to be close to the school. The school is in Paradise Valley. It's a nice home, centrally located in the Phoenix area. Hopefully, in due time we’ll meet some of our famous neighbors.
DH: Phoenix has gotten so close to the title these past three years. What's it going to take to beat San Antonio?
GH: San Antonio has had a tremendous run. They're a dynasty. You have to tip your hat to them. You'd have to say what they've done last year and the last 10 years makes them the favorites going in. We're just focusing on us, what we have to do, be mentally strong, pay attention to detail. It's a long season. Ultimately to do what we want to do in June we first have to get to June. So everything we do from Day One has a purpose. That purpose has been identified and talked about and will continue to be talked about through the course of the season. Aside from not leaving the bench during the altercation, we have to be really good at what we do and be mentally strong and focused, not just when we play San Antonio but for the entire season.DH: Tell me about being the Nickelback music video "Rockstar."
GH: The concept of the video is they got a number of famous people and fans of the band to lip sync the words to the song. Honestly, I never heard of Nickelback but they’re Canadian, my wife is Canadian and my wife's management told me about it. I taped my small little part and now I can officially say I was in a music video. It's kind of funny to see myself up there acting the fool.
DH: You're definitely more of a high culture guy. You own a substantial collection of African-American art, centering around the work of Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett. How does fine art and basketball mix?
GH: I always looked at basketball as a jazz ensemble. You have guys with different roles and little bit of structure but within that structure you have freedom to express yourself. Everyone does it their own way, whether it's with fashion or various moves style of play. It is an art form. Whether it's collecting art or my wife and her career I feel like I'm around creativity. I guess to a degree what I do on the court and in my career is creative in and of itself.
DH: I’m curious. Are you a Tyler Perry fan?
GH: I haven't seen any of his movies. I have an appreciation for what he's accomplished. I guess I'm a fan that.
DH: You publicly supported John Kerry on his 2004 presidential campaign. Who are you supporting this time?
GH: I've lent my support to Senator Obama. I actually co-chaired a fundraiser party in D.C. this summer. I read both of his books. I've heard his view on various issues. I hear his message. I just feel like it's time for a change. It's an interesting time in American politics. My family is friends with the Bush family and the Clinton family. But I have to think with over 300 million people in our country there has to be another family outside of those two that is capable of leading our country. As qualified as Hillary is, to have potentially another eight years of a Clinton or a Bush, well, that would be 20-some odd years of just two families. I really support [Obama] and feel like he’s a breath of fresh air and someone who's a uniter -- someone who can bring everyone in our country together at a point when people are very divided.
DH: You're a Duke alum. How disappointed were you in the Duke faculty and administration with their rush to judgment on the lacrosse players?
GH: I wasn't disappointed. I think it was a tough situation. I think it all stems from the rogue prosecutor. But I don’t have any issues with how it was all handled. Anytime a prosecutor brings up charges you have to make the assumption that there's something there. I know we're in a society where you're innocent until proven guilty. I'm just not bitter the way Duke handled it. I thought they handled it well. Of course, in hindsight people are going to second guess decisions that were made. But a decision was made and you have to live with it. It was one of those situations no matter what you did, it was just a messy situation -- a black eye. Those kids were wrongly accused but I feel like they shouldn't have put themselves in that situation.
DH: The Knicks -- the coach, the owner, the organization -- were found guilty of sexual harassment. David Stern says he won't do anything because it’s a civil matter, not criminal. What do you think about that?
GH: I read where Stern said that and I've read comments that there still might be some action taken. It's one of those things where we all get painted with the same brush. Even though I'm far removed from that situation in New York, we’re all kind of lumped together as a result of it. It's a tough situation. I've known Isiah. He's been great to me. He's helped me in some tough years with his advice. But if an offense was committed there should be some sort of punishment. Maybe the verdict of $11.6 million dollars is enough of a punishment. I don't know. I'm surprised, really. It's a little inconsistent with the way the league has reacted to some other things. But at the end of the day, it's Stern's call. I thought there would have been at least a few games suspension. Maybe there should've been, but I guess that's why I'm not commissioner.
DH: How different do you think Stern would've reacted it was case of racial discrimination?
GH: I don't know. I'm not sure. I kind of lump them in the same category. I know they're two different situations and issues.
DH: Are they?
GH: Race and sex, I think they are two different things. They're similar but they’re different. They're both wrong. I don't know what would've happened. That's a good question. I think we're very sensitive in our country to race. Of all the professional sports leagues, the NBA has been ahead of the game in terms of dealing with race; having people of color in prominent positions as coaches and in the front office. It's interesting how various issues can be hot topics and touch people certain ways. Race is much like sexual harassment -- it gets to people. And people have strong views on it. I don't know what they would’ve done had it been racial discrimination. But I guess we have a precedent now with this sexual harassment case and we'll see how the league handles it.
DH: We know one thing for sure that gets people riled up: dog fighting.
GH: (laughs) If there’s 300 million people in this country, probably 200 million have dogs. People are very emotional when it comes to their pets.
DH: I think the Spurs have been one of the great teams in NBA history and their style of basketball is very compelling. I'm baffled when people say the Spurs are boring. When you look at the totality of basketball being played on the floor is today's NBA in a good place or a bad place?
GH: I think it's in a pretty good place. I think you have a lot of talented individuals, a lot of really marketable young players. I think it's important for those players to be on good teams. But there is good basketball out there. There's different ways to skin a cat. The Spurs have a style of play that's conducive to their personnel and they've had success with it. It doesn't mean that's the only way to go about things but they've had success so you can't knock that. We're in a society where it's style over substance when ultimately it's about winning. It's part of this whole highlight generation. To me it's exciting to watch a team play basketball the right way and win. Just like if your'e a fan of baseball. I don't know baseball but (pauses) ...
DH: You don’t need home runs all the time.
GH: Exactly! And it's like we want home runs all the time. As a fan of basketball, I watched what the Spurs did last year and it's remarkable. Okay, they don't get up and down the court and slam dunk all the time, but you have to appreciate in the fact they win and how they win. I think the league is in good shape. You got a number of good teams, you got emerging teams, you go exciting teams, you got a little bit of everything. For whatever reason, the Spurs haven't connected with the masses like the Bulls dynasty. Maybe it was because of Michael Jordan who was so electrifying and had so much charisma. I can't quite figure out why the Spurs haven't connected like the Bulls because what they've done is pretty amazing.
DH: Like you say, if the highlight shows don't highlight team defense, ball distribution or boxing out then why should the people at home know those are a good things?
GH: We've been brought up as generation of people for whom it's all about the highlights -- the big hit, the home run, the slam dunk or the great one-on-one move. We've lost sight of the actual beauty of the game. That's where we are as sports fans and maybe in some respects why certain teams connect and others don't.
Dave Hollander is the author of 52 WEEKS: Interviews with Champions! Info at: www.davehollander.com