Not Fade Away: On Grant Hill

Grant Hill was a great player who could've had a greater career. Instead, he embodied a different type of greatness.
Share |

There’s not just one way to be a fan, and nothing preventing people from picking a team or a sport because it works with their commute or place of birth or television watching habits or whatever. But caring about sports is both easier and more rewarding when you know something about the sport’s history. This is true in a basic knowing-what-you’re-talking-about sense, but also because some sense of history provides context for the present, and both sanctifies and explains the monuments and heroes of the past we use to measure our current stars; it serves as a link between fans of different generations, and helps the various achievements of this generation make a little more sense. But there’s only so much we can know, or might want to know.

There is just so much ghost basketball back there; we can’t appreciate the paleo-game in the way we do today, both because the information we have is spotty and because that game is fundamentally different from this one. We remember the Jordans and the Birds, as we should, but with time we lose the finer, weirder points of their context; Chris Gatling and Vin Baker are reduced to bit part players. Which, in the broad sweep of things, they were. But this is sad in the same sweet way as nostalgia, this sense of justified fade. It’s for the best not to be 18, toting around a head full of the stats and highlights of some decent, idiosyncratic mid-90’s power forwards. The great stars, the ones everyone remembers, define the shape of the league and our memories of it, but one of the greatest joys of following the NBA are the players who give the league its color. By the time the next generation of dominant players rolls around and LeBron James retires, the life-affirming wackiness of dear J.R. Smith will be lost to history. And this is a loss: if we only remember LeBron and forget J.R., we’re not necessarily remembering what’s most fun about watching basketball right now.

There will be new characters, maybe even new J.R.’s, but it will be different, and they’ll be doomed, too. As the seasons pile up, in the record books and in our minds, whole careers get swallowed up, leaving only a few names from each decade. The awesome Kings teams I grew up cheering for were really important to me, but nobody will remember them. They will remember who they lost to, one last defeat.

***

I never really watched Grant Hill play in the NBA until it was too late. When he was a defensive ace and generally useful guy on the late-period Nash Suns, he was discussed in a hushed tone that suggested he was a living ghost. This seemed absurd, even at the time: Hill was a very effective player and time steals athleticism from everyone. But Hill didn’t work his way up to being a third option on a decent team; he was then making his way down from the All-NBA penthouse. Lost greatness, or at least greatness in decline, is sadder than empty promise, and Grant Hill’s case is a particularly keen example of this. Rather than the slow, steady unravelling common to his peers, losing a few points per game and tenths-of-a-second per first step, Hill broke down all at once and then was left to rebuild what he could. Turns out, ‘what he could’ was fight through four lost seasons’ worth of injuries before playing six more relatively healthy, if not All-Star level, years out West. A good final act, all told, if not the one for which he seemed destined during his zenith. Even a player as great as Grant Hill doesn’t get to choose how it all ends.

***

Because of the three distinct acts of his career, the historical perspective on Grant Hill is murky; the three pieces have bled together. He had the potential for a much clearer story. In the timeline where Hill doesn’t hurt himself, the intertidal zone between Jordan and Duncan/Bryant would have belonged to Hill; he could have shared it, who knows. I’ve grown up with LeBron James emerging as the most transcendent talent of his era; looking for comparisons to LeBron is a losing endeavor, but one that turns up more often than I expected was a young Grant Hill. This perhaps explains that weird tone of regret from his Phoenix years: at his realized peak ability, Hill was years ahead of his time.

There were no churning cosmic forces behind Hill’s lost years, just the familiar cruel frailty of the human body. It would be easy to focus on a sad story of transcendence lost, but Hill’s refusal to bend to circumstance and wrest back control of his legacy is, for all those brilliantly dominant seasons, what is maybe most impressive about him. That’s what he got in this world, and he took it and he was not sorry.

I might as well admit that I am deeply bummed the fuck out I never got to see Hill use his full set of powers, but there are some positives to the way things turned out, and there was a subtle grace to the diminished player he became. They player he was when I knew him was one of the smartest NBA-ers in the modern game, and watching the craft and toughness with which he made the most of his remaining strength was as affecting as it was impressive. The tradecraft was the impressive part; the affecting part is how Hill must have loved the game to stick with it, millions of dollars after he needed his last paycheck and years after what he had to know was his last great day on the court. He had to have been so hopelessly in it for life that all he’d already done was not enough.

This matters, or at least it matters to me. It isn’t about entry-level pundit speak, “heart” or “guts.” This is a connection with the sport on an elemental level, in good times and bad. Dedication is something of a cliche, too, admittedly. But there’s no other name for what kept Grant Hill in the game after he stopped being the Grant Hill he’d been.

Hill’s place in the Hall of Fame is probably ensured. He was one of the best five players in the league during his heyday; his college career remains unfuckwithable. NBA history will always be defined by the biggest and brightest, but players like Grant Hill, who aren’t quite era-defining players, fill in the gaps and create the texture for today’s game. In terms of setting the course of the league, Hill falls short. He was great, but the memory of him will fade; it already has, and his greatest years seem long ago. But he taught us something all the same. If his earliest years is fading, the dedication that earned him his final NBA act will be harder to forget.


Share |

Comments

But there’s only so much we can know, or might want to know.cccam server

helps the various achievements of this generation make a little more sense. But there’s only so much we can know, or might want to know.cardsharing

I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan. Keep up the good work and please tell me when can you publish more articles or where can I read more on the subject. recommended reading

even if they do make decent wages, probably don't make enough to afford what is considered a "nice" place to live in New York City. Especially in midtown, of all places
Amazing Selling Machine

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me. Solgar

Very good blog and articles. I'm really happy to visit your blog. Now I found that I really want. I check your blog every day and try to learn something from your blog. Thanks and waiting for his new post. www.twitter.com

Review are very new things we’re recommending to visit your weblog once more and again. . bandar poker online

It should be noted that whilst ordering papers for sale at paper writing service, you can get unkind attitude. In case you feel that the bureau is trying to cheat you, don't buy term paper from it.

toncatali

Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics
the millionaire blueprint

I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan. Keep up the good work and please tell me when can you publish more articles or where can I read more on the subject.gutter replacement sydney

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. buy likes on instagram for cheap

Its as if you had a great grasp on the subject matter, but you forgot to include your readers. Perhaps you should think about this from more than one angle..obesity help

I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan. Keep up the good work and please tell me when can you publish more articles or where can I read more on the subject.as an example

it serves as a link between fans of different generations, and helps the various achievements of this generation make a little more sense. But there’s only so much we can know, or might want to know.. cccam server

I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan. Keep up the good work and please tell me when can you publish more articles or where can I read more on the subject.trampoline buy

But there’s only so much we can know, or might want to know.cccam server

I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading. I am impressed with your work and skill. Thank you so much. treatment options

Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work....
Growshop

entire body and overall wellbeing, both mentally and physically, although you may work out vigorously everyday.Love Traction Lines Review

You have opened my eyes to varying views on this topic with interesting and solid content.mint air freshener

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more. can you pay for instagram followers

Extremely educational post! There is a great deal of data here that can help any business begin with a fruitful informal communication fight!car show reader board

I am presently starting blog like your one and have found inspiration in your articles. Hopefully I can be a captivati ng blogger some too. 5 year anniversary gift

I really felt I should here. Your article is really great. I like the way you wrote this information.5 year anniversary gifts for men

Thanks, good blog piece. I am presently starting blog like your one and have found inspiration in your articles. Hopefully I can be a captivating blogger some too. Cheers!, Paul Holmes

with such information that I couldn't have found anywhere else. Thank you very much for this. . alexa traffic

I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people. Blood Pressure Support

It’s very informative and you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. You have opened my eyes to varying views on this topic with interesting and solid content. Car Show Display Boards

A company I actually caused appeared to be not skilled and can even slightly observe information. I actually have been executing delhi to ajmer taxi

If more people that write articles really concerned themselves with writing great content like you, more readers would be interested in their writings. Thank you for caring about your content. active instagram followers cheap

Interesting and amazing how your post is! It Is Useful and helpful for me That I like it very much, and I am looking forward to Hearing from your next.. Watch Series Online Free

Thanks For sharing this Superb article.I use this Article to show my assignment in college.it is useful For me Great Work. manual Blog comments

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read !! Certainly enjoying every bit of it and I have bookmarked to check out new things you post... decorative concrete patio ma

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read !! Certainly enjoying every bit of it and I have bookmarked to check out new things you post Taxi Cyprus

my own Blog Engine blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it....
How to add likes to your facebook page

that they were destined to do so all along, that it simply couldn’t have happened any other way . הסעות בלונדון

I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one.I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. הסעות מלוטון ללונדון

A company I actually caused appeared to be not skilled and can even slightly observe information. I actually have been executing this section and absolutely everyone else’. I actually are not aware how you would apply it! manual backlinks

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.can you pay for instagram followers

A company I actually caused appeared to be not skilled and can even slightly observe information. I actually have been executing this section and absolutely everyone else’. I actually are not aware how you would apply it!
unique links dofollow

You know that your efforts are appreciated. Keep up the good work and I hope others will follow your example. read more

ust like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website... packers and movers pune

Your good knowledge and kindness in playing with all the pieces was very useful. I don’t know what I would have done if I had not encountered such a step like this. Villas for rent in Cyprus

It’s very informative and you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. You have opened my eyes to varying views on this topic with interesting and solid content...drug rehab jacksonville fl

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include.engagement ring designs

I am impressed with your work and skill. Thank you so much
Somanabolic Muscle Maximizer PDF

Great Post, But If possible would you not mind updating your blog with some more additional Useful information. Latest Movies on Movietube

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! lisa olson pregnancy miracle book free download

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post the venus factor free download ebook

Our capacity to love is a currency that never runs out." Give yourself the gift of reading this: -gurgaon to jaipur cab