Former Duke star Grant Hill returned to campus Wednesday evening for a special Brotherhood leg of his autobiography promotional tour. The NBA legend’s book, titled "Game," was published Tuesday and recounts Hill’s life as a collegiate leader in the sport, his time with USA Basketball and his distinguished professional career. The memoir also details his post-NBA career as a broadcaster, managing director with USA Basketball, a co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks and more.
Hill came to a crowded Page Auditorium as the third stop of the two-week book tour, where he sat on the stage to be interviewed by Duke head coach Jon Scheyer. Smiles and laughter inside the building illuminated the scene as the charismatic Hill began the night by talking about how he fell in love with basketball after watching the 1982 Final Four, in which North Carolina defeated Georgetown 63-62 for the championship. Hill and his father, former NFL player Calvin Hill, regularly went to the Final Four beginning in 1984 and, during that time, would find their way into the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ parties.
As he noticed how much fun the players and coaches had, the former small forward realized what he wanted for himself.
“I fell in love with basketball. Not watching the NBA. But watching college basketball,” Hill said before the room erupted into applause. “And that’s what I wanted to do.”
The seven-time NBA All-Star shared crucial moments in his life with the crowd by answering questions from Scheyer, and near the end of the event, welcomed inquiries from members of the audience.
Hill discussed details fans typically wouldn’t get to learn about a former college and professional star, such as when several members of the 1990-91 team, including himself, filmed themselves singing karaoke to Prince’s "1999" at a mall the night before the 1991 Final Four. The group and some parents watched the video in Antonio Lang’s room, where they all chuckled to the point that the parents thought they would lose. Yet the Blue Devils defeated UNLV, a team that was undefeated at the time with a 44-game win streak, 79-77. Duke had punched its ticket to the national championship game against Kansas, which it also won for the program's first title.
“I think it speaks to how prepared, how loose we were—we had a whole week to prepare," Hill said. "Coach K had us ready.... We did the unthinkable. But yeah, I mean, the Final Four experience as a spectator, I believe no question helped me to be prepared for that moment of being there and playing as a professional.”
Despite having other options on the table, such as Denny Crum’s Louisville squad, Hill saw something at Duke and decided to join the team that would quickly make his name a household one within the collegiate basketball world. Scheyer thanked the Reston, Va., product for his contributions to the program, noting his jersey retirement and saying that, in his opinion, “Nobody’s done more for Duke than you have in the history of our program.”
The 1993 Defensive Player of the Year also talked about the program’s long-lasting strength with the team’s continual energy as a brotherhood.
“As a player, it’s really the relationships,” Hill said. “It’s the times with your teammates, you know? In the locker room, Training Table, practice, on campus. To me, that’s when the team is really formed. And I think the beauty of our program, Coach K, he was, it’s about family, and it’s about those interactions off the court…. We enjoy each other. We worked hard, we bought into one another and ultimately we’re fortunate to have great success.”
The rest of the night was highlighted by notes about the lessons Hill continued to learn in the professional realm of basketball. He never really got the chance to take in all that happened in his career as much as he did when writing "Game." Recalling Mike Krzyzewski’s "next play" philosophy as a mindset in life, Hill was always looking ahead to what was next. That proved to be important when he had a free flap surgery in 2003 and was temporarily grounded from the game.
After a slew of surgeries and complications, Hill thought he was ready to retire. However, as he stayed at Duke University Hospital for six weeks, Hill said that Krzyzewski visited and told him, “You’re gonna get back, and you’re gonna play.”
Hill would go on to play a total of 19 years in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. He retired from the league in 2013 after tallying 17,137 points as a professional. Hill currently lives in Windermere, Fla., with his wife, Tamia, and their two daughters.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.