Time off from the game to recover from four ankle surgeries has given the Orlando Magic star plenty of time to contemplate life after basketball. We get the lowdown on his touring art collection, his latest business ventures, his family and his future plans.
By Stacy H. Small
OT: We've read a lot about your love for art and your "Something All Our Own" African-American art collection, which has been displayed in galleries nationwide. Why the decision to take your personal art collection on the road?
GH: I grew up with parents who were collectors, which meant I was always being dragged to and from galleries. I didn't really appreciate it as a child, but through osmosis, I guess I developed my passion. My wife [Tamia] and I have been collecting art for years, and we thought it would be a neat idea to share our collection with the public. We felt that we could use our name/celebrity to draw more people into the world of African-American art and expose them to something they hadn't seen before. We also wanted to show athletes who have hobbies and interests - and resources and some fame - that its okay to do things outside the box. Sometimes as athletes we don't feel comfortable letting people know about our different interests, but we should, especially since we do have the resources to do so. We should take advantage of the opportunities to expose ourselves and our children to as many things as we can, whether it is art or something else we are passionate about.
OT: When did you start thinking about life beyond basketball?
GH: I've always been intrigued with business, largely because of how I grew up. My mom has her own business and so does my maternal grandma (who still makes false teeth at the age of 85!), so I've been surrounded by entrepreneurs my whole life. When I first entered the NBA, I actually started my own marketing company [Granhco] instead of hiring an agent to manage my relationships with companies like Sprite, GM and others who wanted to work with me. Like businesspeople do, I hired an attorney, not an agent. I got the chance to see what running a business was all about. I had to hire and fire people, sit in on marketing meetings and really get involved. Being in this environment was like getting my business degree, and the experience has helped prepare me over the last 10 years for the transition to life after sports. I still have this arm of the company, but I am now getting involved in real estate development, which is what I am really intrigued by.
OT: Did the injuries change your way of thinking about life during and after sports? How did the time off affect your family life?
GH: The time off has re-energized me. It's been great for my physical healing, and it's also allowed me to understand what I need to do on and off the court to be successful. When you are caught up in the rat race, you don't have time to make adjustments or step back and realize what you can do better. The time off has also allowed me to spend a lot of quality time with my wife (we'd only been married a year when I got hurt) and my two-and-a-half year-old daughter. As an athlete, you don't always realize the sacrifices your family has to make when you are constantly traveling, but having been away from that pace has allowed me to have a better understanding of this. It's important for athletes to recognize the sacrifices their families make and spend as much quality time as possible with them. The time off has definitely helped me appreciate my family, and it's also really given me time to focus on what I want to do after basketball.
OT: So tell us a little more about your latest business ventures. You mentioned you are getting into real estate. Is this what you plan to do once your playing days are over?
GH: I've always said that I was passionate about two things: basketball and Monopoly. Right now I only really have time to do small real estate and co-development deals, but my ultimate goal is to be a real estate developer, to have a piece of land and be part of the whole process from raw dirt to the finished product. In time, I want to be involved in every aspect of it - from the permit and zoning process to the end - and I want to be involved in big deals. In the past two years, I have been doing some co-development projects in Florida and Arizona, and I love it. Its enjoyable, profitable and tangible. I am addicted to it. Right now I am trying to learn as much as possible about real estate so when the day comes that I am done with basketball, I will be able to easily transition into this next phase of my life.
OT: How are you learning the real estate business? Who is your mentor?
GH: One of my parents' best friends (he actually named me!) is Roger Staubach. He played football during the '70s when you pretty much had to have a job in the off-season ,and I've seen what he's done and how he has built himself a really nice commercial real estate business (The Staubach Company). Roger is my role model, and he's taught me a lot. I've been watching him and following him, and I've also been calling and meeting with other people in the business who I know I can learn something from.
OT: Any advice for fellow athletes trying to figure out their post-sports careers?
GH: It's really important for athletes to get to know people in the business that interests them, whether it's the car industry, law or real estate or whatever. While you are in the spotlight, people would love nothing more than to share with you how their business works. At some point they may not return your calls, so learn as much from them as you can while you are hot. There's going to be a growth curve, but don't let this scare you. You can always keep learning, and there will always be people who want to teach you, so take advantage of this.
OT: Now that you've had some time off, you're probably a bit more business-savvy than some of the other players, as well as a bit more mature. How will that affect your relationships with the guys on the team?
GH: Well, for one, I am a little older than I used to be. What happened? I used to be the youngest! Seriously, one of the things that plays a key role in winning is investing in each other. Whether you are Dwight Howard at 18 or Pat Garrity, who's just a few years younger than me, what I want to do is share what I've learned about the world with my teammates. I want to share what I've learned about art, business, marriage - the little I know - with them. I get along with everybody and I plan to do my part, whatever it takes, to help strengthen the core of guys on the team and ultimately win a championship.
OT: What have you learned as an athlete that has helped you in the business world?
GH: The great thing about basketball is the team aspect, which carries over into the real world and into business. In basketball, you learn how to trust, how to make sacrifices, how to play your role and have collective responsibilities. These are all aspects of an athlete's life, things we have learned and practiced all our lives. What we need to do is take the same principles and transition them to anything we choose to do, whether it's business or marriage. You've got to learn how to give and take, how to make sacrifices, and how to play your role on the team.
OT: Any other advice for athletes regarding life after sports and the importance of preparing for tomorrow?
GH: Ultimately, don't limit yourself to being just an athlete. There is more to all of us than our sport, and sports do not define who we are. Don't be afraid to explore your interests and take advantage of the opportunities you have as an athlete. Don't be afraid to let your passions show, and to think outside the box. Start preparing now for what you want to do after sports, because your playing days will go by fast, believe me.
For more on Grant Hill, visit www.granthill.com.