1,000 Reasons For Grant Hill To Smile

HOUSTON – One thousand games.

There was a time when it seemed more likely he might undergo 1,000 surgeries.

“I’m still here,” said Grant Hill, his feet soaking in a tub of ice that seemed to be melting from the smile on his face.

The fact that he’s still anywhere near an NBA court, let alone running up and down one, is an act of love and stubbornness.

Players like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant have been fortunate to be free of major injuries and blew through their first 1,000 games like they were in the EZ-Pass lane on a highway.

For Hill, it’s been the long, bumpy road that could have made him want to pull over and get off so many times.

“Not when you can do this,” Hill said on Monday night after a 117-109 win over the Rockets gave his Clippers their 30th win of the season and kept them just behind the Thunder for the best record in the league.

This was just one layup early in the second quarter. This was just 16 minutes off the bench. This was just his third game of the season after a bruised bone in his right knee forced him out for the first three months of the schedule.

But this was also chasing that passion that’s driven Hill for as long as he can remember.

Fact is, he probably wouldn’t still have been sitting there in the visitors’ locker room inside the Toyota Center three months past his 40th birthday if everything had gone according to plan as the Duke All-American, the 1995 co-Rookie of the Year, the seven-time NBA All-Star.

Here he is trying to work himself back into game shape for an 18th season because he had so many of them (in what should have been the prime of his career) taken away by ankle and knee surgeries, by a staph infection that could have taken away his life.

“At a time like this, on a night like this, I think about the relationships, the lessons learned,” Hill said. “All the little things become more significant and those are the things I take away.”

The surgeons who kept repairing his body and the trainers and the therapists and the ballboys who did all of the things that let him continue to get back out onto the court time after time. All of the coaches, who gave him space and all of the players who gave him their embrace.

From 2000 through 2006, Hill missed 356 of a possible 492 games. That’s what makes nights like this one still special.

“It goes by so fast,” said veteran teammate Lamar Odom. “One minute you’re coming into the league as a kid ready to take on the world. Then look over there at (Grant) and you can see what it feels like to have this life slipping through your hands. You don’t ever want to let it go. It’s special.”

How fitting then that this might be a very special Clippers team, the kind that could take Hill to the one place he’s never been in the NBA from Detroit to Orlando to Phoenix — reaching out for a real shot at a championship.

“When we lost to the Lakers in the conference finals (2010) and Amar’e (Stoudemire) left, I kinda went, ‘Well, maybe it wasn’t in the cards,’ ” he said. “But Phoenix trying to rebuild might have been the best thing for me personally. I got a chance to come here.

“A lot goes into the winning. There are variables. You need the organization to assemble the talent. You need the coaching. You need the talent to recognize the opportunity that’s there and to give up a little bit of themselves as individuals, and you need lots of things to go right. You’ve got to stay healthy, you know.”

Who knows that better than Hill? He looks at the empty locker stalls a few feet away where 36-year-old Chauncey Billups is still recovering from Achilles’ tendon surgery and tendinitis in his foot, where All-Star and MVP candidate Chris Paul sat out his second straight game with a sore right knee. Hill is the second-oldest player in the league and hasn’t forgotten a year or a month or a day that it took to get here.

“I feel like after all the things that I’ve been through, it’s a reward to be on this team,” he said. “So I’ve been champing at the bit the last three months to get back out there. I’m excited, but also mad at myself for not being where I want to be. I think this team has a chance to be special.”

Grant Hill wiggles his toes in the ice.

One thousand games never felt so good.

40 Comments

  1. Cathie says:

    I like Grant Hill…congratulations…quite an achievement.

  2. doni says:

    congrats grant hill…..finally…1000games..of all the injury…never give up..more games for you….

  3. ko0kiE says:

    Grant Hill is just a terrific guy.. I’m a fan of his since his rookie days in detroit. It’s awesome to still see him play after injuries depleted his prime.

    I’m still wondering how good that McGrady-Hill Combo in Orlando would have been… ;)

  4. BIGMatta23 says:

    Still have some old VHS of Grant’s rookie year….The man could ball!
    Best thing that happened to Grant was playing with Joe D as a rookie. Learnt from a true professional.

  5. HEART is the essence says:

    Grant Hill being a warm, tough-hearted fellow makes the league a lot better, Alonzo Mourning is also that kind of guy, covering the acts of punks like Rondo, Metta, et al.

  6. Who is the oldest in the nba? Jermaine O’neal? Steve Nash? Kobe? Billups?

  7. Grant Hill the Lebron James of the 90s, a true legend,congrats Hill you´re the man!

  8. Dew says:

    Grant Hill vs Allen Iverson. Shows how Grant had the potential to just take over a game and do it in style. The jam at 9 min shows what kind of potential Hill was bout to unleash on the league. http://youtu.be/O1GMRc8U9wo

  9. Dew says:

    I remember when the Pistons went to that teal, black and white uniforms with the horse on them. I bought a whole setup with the white pistons jersey and shorts. The white was shiny and different fabric than mesh or what authentic jerseys were made out of. I even had the Nike warmup shirt as well. I was decked out with new Grant Hill stuff. Remembering playing George Gervin as a kid at Spurs camp in a game of horse. He picked me because he liked Hill but hated the Pistons. Haha. Hill was my favorite growing up. I even had a pair of FILA shoes and a load of Hill rookie cards. Glad you reached 1,000 man. Well deserved. Hill reminds me of Penny Hardaway. Two guys working hard to play the game and two of my all time favorite players. So much talent when healthy. Both would of been top 10 of all time if had healthy careers. You look up dedication in the dictionary, and Hill is one of the entries next to it.

  10. Coop says:

    It is about time good job Grant

  11. Jason says:

    Grant is actually the oldest player in the league now, one day older than Kurt Thomas. Great story.

  12. tamas_bak says:

    remeber this?

    “Grant Hill with the explosion!!!”

    love u man.

  13. Birkan says:

    if he was healthy during his NBA career, i would put him right next to Jordan. i loved watching him in the 90s and respected his will afterwards. Grant the great

  14. Reality says:

    Remarkable player!!!! I remember watch you in 90s and wow the talent and abilities. You were on your way to be the franchise of Detroit.

    Congrats Grant!!!!

  15. GC says:

    Grant, you deserve a beer and a ring

  16. edddder says:

    Grant Hill is one of the reason i watch NBA games specially during his pistons stint after M.Jordan retired

  17. bbayboo124 says:

    i think grant hill should take the starting spot from blake griffi that way blake griffin crys like a baby

    • No Drama in the L.A.C. says:

      You forgot this is the Clippers not the Lakers. The Clippers have team chemestry not individual egos

  18. Jonesy37 says:

    A guy way too talented to just sucumb to his injuries and realise what his body was telling him – “QUIT!”. Glad to see he might finally get a shot at the title that should have been his in Detroit had he remained healthy. If the Celtics fall, GO CLIPPERS FOR GRANT!!!

  19. Lipani says:

    Its not so long ago that we were scrambling to buy FILA shoes and gulping Sprite by the gallon hoping that maybe that desperate shot will hit nothing but net…just like Grant Hill!

  20. amigo says:

    This guy deserves a championship ring!!!!!

  21. Go Grant says:

    Hope he gets a championship, just to really set in stone the champ he is.

  22. E-SY says:

    Congratulations!

    And it was very nice to see that the Clippers reserve backcourt is so much better than Houston’s starting duo!

  23. britishdelights says:

    The man’s a legend!

  24. T-Mac Fan says:

    This is truly a testament to how driven Grant Hill still is. It would have been easy to throw in the towel in 2005 and no one would have blamed him…

    Phoenix makes miracles. I don’t know what they do down there, but somehow everyone seems to gain full health when they go to Phoenix. Isn’t it odd that both Grant Hill and Steve Nash get injured once they leave the Suns behind??? And this is exactly the reason why Greg Oden should pay the Suns to sign him on their roster…

    In any case, gratz to mr Hill on this accomplishment. It truly is a miracle to get this far.

  25. JKey says:

    I can still remember Grant Hill showing off his moves in the Sprite ads as a Piston and being amazed by his abilities. I’m still amazed by abilities, but just in different ways now as an older player. Congrats!

  26. MathSimon says:

    if not for your injuries men, you really could have been the next Jordan… Still happy though you got to play a thousand games. Hope you keep healthy and win a ring. You deserve it

  27. 3s2ng says:

    I want to see Gran Hill get his ring before he retires.

  28. 3s2ng says:

    I want to see Grant Hill get his ring before he retires.

  29. DavidNin says:

    Sadly great guys like Grant Hill, Vince Carter, Christ Webber, Tracy Mcgrady, and Yao Ming were players that their health betrayed them when they had the nature talent to success in their prime or at any point of their career, sometimes life is not fair but CONGRATULATIONS to Hill, hes now in a well deserved oportunity to the tittle and i hope the Clippers wins like Mavs did and placed a ring in great old guys that deserved too. Hes its inspirational.

  30. Macedonian says:

    My favorite player in the last decade. Once star, then worrior and always humble and beloved by teammates and fans wherever he played.

    Wish you all the best, and a title to end one of the most amazing careers in the history of sports. I believe, next year LAC will have a good chance for the title. This year OKC and Spurs (still) are better teams, whereas LAC is still building and needs 25min from Chauncey and 15-20min from Grant when both healthy. East is, and will be, joke with this advertizing companies (Heat and Knicks).

  31. G says:

    Are you paying attention Mr. Cousins?????? Think about this when you are complaining or misbehaving again!!!

  32. GT says:

    Nice to see Hill still out there and if the Clippers somehow win a title this year in my opinion he would be a very deserving champion considering what has happened to him throughout his career. People often think lebron was one of a kind and in some ways he is but Hill had a 21/9/7 average in his 3rd year iirc and was one of the original high scoring yet multitasking small forwards rather than the more typical 15/5/4-5 you would expect from a small forward in the 90’s. Hill’s story reminds me a lot of Penny Hardaway’s and a few others whose careers were blighted by injury which in my eyes makes him an even more deserving winner if the clip’s get it done this year.

    After being a fan of basketball for around 20 years and due to being English I don’t so much support teams rather than just enjoy good quality games and individual players. Over the years there have been so many players I have wanted to win the title and as much as I loved Jordan I still somewhat wanted Stockton and Malone to win a title hence why I was glad Dirk and especially Kidd got theirs a few years ago and I put people like Hill,Nash in that bracket too…. just a shame Nash is with the Lakers as I would rather watch OKC win than watch Kobe get another ring.

  33. Shan says:

    This is so heartwarming.

  34. uoykcuf says:

    Congrats Hill! I remembered all your sprite commericals, all the triple doubles, the ROY with kidd, your running days with dumars and rocking fila like a boss on the court. Of course there’s always a “if” but hey as a fan, I am just happy to see you play.

    • prix says:

      Hill is exceptionally a better player than Kobe,Pierce and Westbrook combined. Heart is always bigger then talent.

      • James says:

        somebody go find Batman! This joker is killing people with his bad jokes! Does Grant Hill give as much money to the homeless community than Kobe?

      • Namadi Wakil says:

        at least Grant Hill’s been faithful to his wife and didn’t rape anybody