At the beginning of TNT's coverage of the Pacers Game Six victory over the Heat, Grant Hill announced his retirement ending a successful 19-year career that saw him transform from unmitigated superstar to injury-riddled to resurrected role player. Grant Hill was the kind of person who dominated with class, worked his butt off to make good on the promise of his talent and his contract and make a difference in his community.
Grant Hill's legacy in the NBA will be one of tragedy. A supremely gifted player who suffered an unfortunate injury and was never quite the same. Despite his efforts to come back time and time again, his body would not cooperate. And then he found a rebirth as a role player, finally receiving a clean bill of health and being able to play the entire season.
It is unfortunate that the Magic were the team where Hill struggled so much time and time again. In Orlando, that creates a mixed legacy for the superstar.
Hill arrived in Orlando averaging 21.6 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game and 6.3 assists per game. Those are strong numbers that cannot be ignored and put him among Hall of Famers.
However, Hill also arrived in Orlando on crutches. The reason is perhaps emblematic of what would become his greatest weakness. Hill had played the previous Playoff series against the Heat with what turned out to be a severely broken ankle. At the time, Hill knew of the injury but also knew his team needed him on the floor.
And so he gave it his all, and very likely ruined his career to do so.
Hill signed an eight-year, $93 million contract with the Magic and proceeded to go from one ankle problem to another. He played in only four games his first year with the Magic and played in a little more than 30 percent of the games he could in a Magic uniform. After never playing less than 70 games in the first six years of his career, he played more than 30 just twice with the Magic.
Again, the reason was Hill's determination to come back time and time again. Hill felt a responsibility to live up to that contract and make good on his promise and pushed himself to a breaking point (quite literally) time and time again. His desire to come back too quickly led to a relapse of his injury. A staph infection later on nearly killed Hill.
In all, five separate ankle surgeries during his time in Orlando kep Hill from teaming up wtih Tracy McGrady to be a tour de force in a weakened Eastern Conference. While McGrady blossomed, Hill waited and worked in vain for a return.
By the time Hill, who still made two All-Star games as a member of a Magic and enjoyed immense popularity, being voted on in both instances, was healthy enough to play the Magic had moved on. McGrady blossomed into an All Star and left, frustrated with Orlando's inability to get him any help. The Magic had brought in Dwight Howard to anchor the future of the organization and had a new style and belief system with Stan Van Gundy to spread the floor with 3-point shooters.
Hill no longer fit that mold. Fans were frustrated when he did not accept less money to stay, but the Magic did not want to bring him back that much either.
That left only the bitter taste of disappointment for Magic fans who had such high hopes for the 2000s as a decade when John Gabriel signed McGrady and Hill together. Hill had impossible expectations to fulfill and nothing he could do to fulfill them.
In the meantime, Hill was extremely involved in his community in Orlando and was a recipient of the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award in 2001. Many have suspected Hill could have a future in politics because of his concern for others and his ability to get into deep conversations with reporters, teammates and others. The end of Hill's basketball career is just the end of one of many chapters left for the Duke graduate.
Orlando fans still have to come to terms with what Hill went through while he was in Orlando and how they feel about his time here.
Ultimately it was disappointing on the court and kept the Magic from realizing their full potential as a franchise for nearly a decade. But there is still no taking away what he accomplished throughout his career and how good it was to have Hill as a person associated with the Magic.
Grant Hill's No. 33 will not be hanging up in the Amway Center rafters — an odd thing to think about for a player who spent eight years of what should have been his prime in a Magic uniform. A lot of that was out of his control. He was still a model player for the Magic as shown in his constant work effort and his drive to give something back to the Magic and the Orlando community.