Grant Hill entered the Hall of Fame with no regaling stories of his immense talent, but thanks to all those who inspired him to reach those heights.
Grant Hill arrived in Springfield, Massachusetts a bit of the odd man out among a class of legendary players like Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Tina Thompson. He had his moment for sure in the NBA in addition to his stellar college career. But his resume was noticeably empty. Even compared to his peers.
He had no NBA titles and very little Playoff success or personal accolades. The story of his career was one of unfulfilled potential thanks to injury.
At his best, Hill was as good as all of them. He was a perennial All-Star and an All-NBA player. Supremely popular and with the numbers to back it up. Hill’s future seemed to be destined for Springfield.
As Orlando Magic fans know all too well, that was not the case largely because of his six injury-riddled seasons in Orlando. Hill could not reach his potential as the nagging ankle injury chopped him down in his prime.
He still made his way (deservingly) to Springfield. He had done plenty to earn this accolade. But it was still hard to say what Hill would say or how he would respond to this honor.
His response, it turned out, was pure Grant Hill. There was a sense of the respect and graciousness he played the game with that filled this moment.
The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony and the speeches that come with it are a chance to reflect on a player’s career. The best speeches often mix in a list of thank yous to those that helped a player grow and reach these heights and stories of their playing days and lessons learned. They impart these lessons, telling stories of their playing days.
Hill’s career was always one of tremendous respect for the game. He was an uber-athlete and one of the best players the league had ever seen. But he never carried himself that way. He was capable of throwing down over anyone but more likely to lift a hand to help his opponent up then lord that moment over his opponent.
That was how he played on the court too. Hill led the league in triple-doubles and was a multi-faceted athlete who was as strong a playmaker and passer as he was a scorer. He averaged 4.6 assists per game and 6.9 assists per game with the Detroit Pistons.
It made sense then that much of his Hall of Fame speech was thanking those who helped him get there. In fact, it was his entire Hall of Fame speech.
He went through a list of so many people who helped him and inspired him. From the two men who presented him to the Hall of Fame — Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski and Georgetown Hoyas legend, New York Knicks legend and former Orlando Magic teammate Patrick Ewing — to people he shouted out and called up to the stage unexpectedly in Isiah Thomas and Alonzo Mourning, making Ahamad Rashad scramble to add more chairs to the stage.
Hill told no stories of his greatness. He really shared few lessons. He just poured out gratitude for everyone who inspired him and led him to this moment. It was not so much a speech as a shoutout to everyone who produced the Grant Hill record.
That included some discussion of his time with the Magic. A time that saw him on the sideline during the prime of his career. It was a time that forced him to redefine his game and become a much more cerebral, defensive-minded player with much of his athleticism taken away.
Hill took a moment to thank all of his coaches, quipping he would have loved to play for Doc Rivers. He also thanked all of his doctors over the years, giving a special shoutout to the Phoenix Suns’ medical staff that helped give him a second wind to his career, likely cementing his Hall of Fame credentials.
It was a speech of pure gratitude. That was something he always showed on the court. Yes, even in Orlando.
What Hill could not contribute on the floor for the Magic, he gave back to the Orlando community. Hill won the team’s Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award and a contributor to plenty of charitable causes in Central Florida — and really everywhere he went.
Hill was always quick to give an assist. That was his way on the court. It was exemplified in everything he did.
It was true even in his Hall of Fame speech. He was simply grateful for all the help he had along the way. He knew he would not be in this position without the support of those around him. This was his moment to give them the spotlight that shined on him for his entire career.
His speech closed with one more thanks. Not to anyone he played with or players who had a direct impact on him. He thanked all the players who came before him, saying he always tried to honor and respect the legacies of those who came before him.
That helps explain some of the struggles Hill had in Orlando. The weight of his max contract seemed to place an obligation on him to play. And he often tried to play on an injured ankle and foot that needed rest. But Hill wanted to be there for his teammates and live up to the commitment the city and the franchise made to him.
His body would not let him live up to that promise. But still, in his final three years with the Magic, Hill averaged 16.8 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game. His skill set was not the same as it was before the injury, but Hill was still more than serviceable.
Hill gave all of himself throughout his career. Sometimes to his own detriment.
He had few stories to share during his Hall of Fame speech. Just the gratitude to those that inspired and helped him along the way.
It was purely Grant Hill.