Injuries are something that all professional athletes have to deal with during their career. Sometimes the ailments are minor, sometimes they lead to extended issues, and sometimes they’re much more serious. It doesn’t take much for one to derail someone for good.
There have been many career-altering injuries throughout NBA history. This guide looks at one of the most famous by studying Grant Hill’s time in professional basketball. The legend played for a long time, but he didn’t get out of the league without his share of issues.
Hot Start, Fast Fall
Few players have ever had the amount of hype Grant Hill did. A standout in high school, the All American exploded in college when he put together one of the best ACC runs of all time while playing at Duke. There, he won two title games, went to a third, and stacked up tons of stats.
As a result, he came into the NBA with a head of steam. The Pistons instantly grabbed him as the third overall pick, a move that paid off in a big way. The shifty wing was an offensive mastermind, combining points and assists and helping the team make the playoffs with ease.
While the Pistons didn’t have a ton of postseason success, Hill only got better with each passing season. His stats steadily rose, as did his playing time. However, what seemed like a smooth sailing career came to a sharp halt in 2000.
During that season, after helping Detroit make yet another playoff run, Hill suffered a left ankle sprain seven days before the postseason. While he continued to play on the injured joint for a few games, it eventually became too much. He sat out during game 2 of the first round.
The Pistons got swept and Hill’s season was over. Not only that, but he couldn’t join the U.S. Olympic team that season. Though the Pistons hoped he would heal up quickly, that first sprain was just the start of Hill’s issues.
An Ongoing Problem
The year after the injury, Hill found himself on the Orlando Magic. While the organization hoped pairing him up with Tracy McGrady would bring them great success, Hill’s ankle only got worse. He couldn’t push past it, and ended up being injury ridden across the next three seasons.
Hill played just four games in his first year with the Magic, then 14 in his second season, and 29 in the third. He didn’t play a single contest in his fourth year at all. What doctors hoped would be a minor one year issue quickly turned into a multi-year affair. And it didn’t stop there.
While Hill came back in 2004-2005 after once again having surgery on his injured ankle, he suffered a bruised shin that took him out for the first part of the season. He did eventually recover, and for the first time in years, put together a full season (67 games).
He had a productive year, but then quickly fell back into his old issues when a nagging groin injury and a hernia kept him out of 61 games the next season. Many people thought he would retire, but he pushed through and came back to play for six more seasons.
Though he still had some problems, he finally got his body back on track. Hill played in seventy or more games from 2007 to 2010, and was a key role player for the Suns.
Eventually, more lower body injuries, including a bruised knee, forced him to retire in 2012. Even so, his healthy years showed that he always had what it took to succeed at the top.
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
Before his ankle injury, Grant Hill was one of the best players of all time. In fact, only Larry Bird, Lebron James, and Oscar Robertson had a better first six years. Afterwards was a completely different story. He still had a strong career, but he wasn’t the same force.
Grant Hill ended his career after nineteen seasons. He made the hall of fame as a player, and retired with multiple accolades. Still, his nagging ankle issue was always there. The problem haunted him for his entire time in the NBA, and prevented him from reaching the next level.
It’s easy to see Hill as someone who didn’t quite have it, but his path shows how hard it is to be a superstar. It’s not always about having the talent, it’s about staying healthy too.
Few players have had Grant Hill’s potential. He excelled in high school, was a standout in one of the biggest college programs, and succeeded at all stages of the NBA. Unfortunately, no matter how good someone is, they can’t overcome a never ending issue.
He wasn’t one of the all-time greats, but if not for his ankle he might have been. It’s always tough when one ailment has such a negative impact on a player’s career, and Hill is a perfect example of why