Before Grant Hill ever met Michelle Obama, Janet Hill, the Duke basketball legend's mother, had already worked with her. Attending a fundraiser in Phoenix during the 2008 presidential campaign, Grant Hill listened to Michelle Obama's speech, in which she told a story he had never heard before--that his mother once helped the now-first lady to get on the board of governors for a corporation.
Hill met Michelle Obama for the first time at that fundraiser, and they will now share the spotlight on a much grander stage--the two are part of the United States presidential delegation for the 2012 London Olympics.
"It's a tremendous opportunity to be a part of this delegation and to be handpicked by the first lady," Hill said. "I’m just sort of overwhelmed. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and it will be a lot of fun."
While not actually competing in the Olympics, Hill--a public supporter of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election--will be at Friday night's opening ceremony for the Olympics, with the delegation beginning its work in London on Thursday. Hill tweeted Thursday morning, "About to board Air Force 2 for London. #TeamUSA."
The presidential delegation also includes former American Olympians Dominique Dawes (gymnastics), Brandi Chastain (soccer) and Summer Sanders (swimming) in addition to Paralympian Gabriel Diaz de Leon.
On Thursday, the group is scheduled to work on the first lady's anti-childhood obesity campaign in London with an event featuring 1,000 American and British Children at the U.S. ambassador's residence who will have a chance to meet soccer star David Beckham, according to the LA Times. That initiative will continue on Saturday, with the first lady encouraging people in the United States to organize and be active in honor of the Olympics.
"The first lady has worked tirelessly here in the U.S. to fight childhood obesity," Hill said. "For a lot of reasons it's exciting to travel and be a part of this delegation with the first lady."
Hill--who lead Duke basketball to national championships in 1991 and 1992 and another championship game in 1994--has always held a degree of interest in worldly affairs, having majored in history during his time in Durham. And Janet Hill has always been close to the process, having been a classmate of Hillary Clinton's at Wellesley College.
The Hill-family connection to Michelle Obama is just another layer added to that.
"It was neat to know my mom had met her before," Hill said.
Hill will be one of a number of Blue Devils in London, with Duke men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski notably leading the USA men's basketball team for a second Olympic Games, looking to repeat with another gold medal. Krzyzewski's top two assistants at Duke, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, are also on his staff with Team USA. Collins and Hill were teammates in the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
"Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see [Krzyzewski] and visit with him. I’m obviously very excited for Coach K and the entire Olympic team. And I know they’ll do everything to get that gold medal," Hill said.
Blue Devil divers Abby Johnston and Nick McCrory are also competing in the games, representing the United States.
Hill entered the NBA in 1994, drafted by the Detroit Pistons, and despite career-threatening ankle and knee injuries, is now the second oldest player in the NBA. Hill signed with the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason, beginning a tenure with his fourth team in the league.
When Hill chooses to hang up his shoes, though, does the 6-foot-8 swingman see a future in politics? Hill refused to rule it out, but don't count on it.
"I don’t think so, but you never know. That could change. I’m just enjoying the last few years of playing basketball and looking forward to the next phase and chapter of my life," Hill said. "I don’t forsee politics in the immediate future if at all, but I'll at least keep the option open."