The timeline of Grant Hill's NBA career is really quite incredible. From being the No. 3 pick in the 1994 draft to battling through career-threatening injuries and playing for four different franchises in 19 seasons, Hill is a player that basketball fans everywhere will not soon forget.
With nearly two decades of NBA service to his name between the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers, Hill's legacy is made up of countless moments of star power, resolve, sportsmanship and professionalism.
On Saturday evening, that legacy as a pro finally hit the point where we can celebrate it forever.
Hill announced his retirement through the Clippers prior to Saturday night's Game 6 matchup between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, and the team's website had a press release to confirm that he would not return for a 20th season in October.
The NBA had this tribute for the seven-time All-Star following the news of his retirement (via Twitter):
Here he is joining the NBA on TNT crew prior to the Heat-Pacers game to talk with fellow players who also had to make the tough choice to hang up their sneakers and leave the game behind them, including:
Hill had reportedly been leaning toward retirement at the end of the season long before the Clippers were eliminated from the 2013 NBA playoffs. Paul Coro of USA Today had that story in early April as the Clips were preparing for postseason play.
As the curtain closes on Hill's NBA career, we can't help but look back at the moments that made his time in the league so enjoyable for his coaches, teammates and fans who cheered for No. 33 during a tenure that spanned three decades.
One of Hill's biggest moments as a basketball player first came in the NCAA tournament.
Who can forget the 1992 NCAA regional-final game between Hill's Duke squad and Kentucky. The two rivals played to a one-point Wildcat lead with just 2.1 seconds to play. Hill was the inbounder on his own end, and after he took the ball from the official, the rest became history.
Hill was the 1994 ACC Player of the Year at Duke, won two NCAA championships with the Blue Devils during his time in college and was twice an All-American before turning pro. As the 1994 NBA draft approached, it was clear that he was a top-five pick in his draft class.
Glenn Robinson and Jason Kidd went one-two to the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks, respectively, leaving the Pistons with the easy choice to make Hill their No. 1 pick that year.
It turned out to be a great selection.
Hill would share 1994-95 NBA Rookie of the Year honors with Kidd, who also had a stellar start to his career in Dallas. He averaged 19.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game with the Pistons during his rookie season, numbers that cemented his status as one of the NBA's brightest young stars.
He would only get better, as Hill's time with the Pistons was nothing short of magnificent.
Over six years of NBA service in the Motor City, Hill had rapidly become one of the NBA's biggest stars that no one was talking about. With Michael Jordan's career winding down, Kobe Bryant's in its infancy and LeBron James still in grade school, all Hill did was put up huge numbers in his first six years of action.
Hill's line from Detroit is downright impressive—21.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game—and good enough to earn him honors in an exclusive club of five other basketball players who are all among the all-time greats (via ESPN's Stats & Info):
During the early part of his career, Hill, like Co-Rookie of the Year Jason Kidd, was apt to post a triple-double on any given night, notching 29 such feats—a number that puts him among the top 10 on the NBA's all-time list.
At No. 9, Hill is one spot ahead of Michael Jordan in that category.
A free agent before the 2000-01 season, Hill decided to sign with the Magic to try to accelerate his rise to stardom and join a team with the potential to reach—and win—the playoffs every year. In his six years with Detroit, the Pistons made the playoffs four times, but were knocked out of the first round each time.
Unfortunately, Orlando is also where Hill's career took a turn for the worse.
A broken ankle in the playoffs with Detroit the year before lingered into the start of his Orlando career. During his first season with the Magic, Hill played in just four games. That number improved to only 14 the next year.
In six years with the Magic, Hill never played a full 82-game schedule. He played in 200 games (195 starts) with the Magic, but by the time he was fully recovered from ankle problems, the magic in his game was gone and the supporting cast was trying to rebuild—not contend.
Orlando and Grant Hill are synonymous with the biggest question in sports: What if? Bill Simmons feels the same way:
In 2011, Hill spoke out and said the training staffs in Detroit and Orlando contributed to his injury problems during the mid-2000s by not making him rest the ankle after breaking it in the 2000 playoffs.
Moving on to Phoenix after Orlando had run its course, Hill found a way to surprise us all one more time by doing something that has always been a hallmark of the consummate professional—he reinvented his game to help the team he was playing for.
Hill suddenly became one of the NBA's best defenders in Phoenix, bringing toughness, three-point shooting and leadership to a team that knocked on the door of contention nearly every year that Mike D'Antoni was at the helm.
That success peaked in 2010, when the Suns made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing in six games to the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers.
A brief 20-minute appearance with the Clippers this year would be the last time Hill competed in the playoffs with an eye toward winning a ring. He joined L.A. last offseason specifically to try to win a ring with a contender, but it was not to be.
HIll ends his NBA career with career averages of 16.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 1,026 career regular-season games. He was selected to the All-NBA team on five occasions and also played in 39 playoff games in his 19 seasons.
He won't end up with that jewelry that so many NBA pros covet over the course of their careers, but Hill can hang his hat on a career that many will envy. It might have been marred by injuries, but in no way did they fully define what he accomplished.
After frustrations in Orlando, Hill could have quit a long time ago.
He instead played for another decade, earning praise as a "player's player" who cared about the game, his teammates and the integrity of the sport more than he did reaching the elusive 20-5-5 club again or any other individual accolade.
Don't believe me? Check out Twitter's reaction (NBA players, specifically) of Hill's retirement.
Tributes will start to pour in over the next few days, and there's no reason why Hill shouldn't have his swan song in the form of YouTube videos, fond reminiscences, conversations about why injuries suck and a lively debate about his Hall of Fame candidacy.
The ultimate ambassador to the game, he will be remembered for his rise to fame, fall from grace and rebuilding of an image that will likely transcend the game as he decides what path to take with the remainder of his days on this earth.
Hopefully, this look back at a few Grant Hill memories gives NBA fans who grew up in the 1990s a chance to relive the promise of his talent, fans who grew up in the 2000s another chance to regret unfortunate circumstances and burgeoning NBA fans a chance to brush up on their league history.
When it's all said and done, there won't be any shortage of Hill mentions in NBA history books, all-time lists and revisits to a time when the NBA really grew as a league in the United States.
We bid you farewell, Mr. Hill. It has been a pleasure, a privilege and an honor to watch you give back to the game that gave you so much. NBA fans everywhere tip their cap to the end of an era, and wish you good luck in your next endeavor.
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