Grant Hill is approaching the end of a long and tortured NBA career that easily could be consider both highly successful and very much unfulfilled. The story of the injuries that stole Grant's chance to be a top 10 all-time player has been well documented; we wanted to know what plans Grant was making for life after hoops.
"I want a max deal. I'm making my decision two days after the lockout's over," Grant said when asked what comes next after his contract expires at the end of this season. It was his way of deflecting the question with humor. Grant has repeatedly insisted that he's not yet decided if this is the final year of his career.
Right now, five games into the 2010-11 season, Grant Hill is securely positioned as the Phoenix Suns starting small forward. He is leading the team with six rebounds per game and remains the team's best perimeter defender. Despite playing a career-low 28.2 minutes per game as part of the Suns' small forward-heavy roster, Hill is averaging 10.8 points on 44.8 percent shooting.
Grant understands, of course, that the end is coming soon, even if he plays a few more seasons. There's very few players that will leave the game as respected and universally admired, which only helps to open up many opportunities for the creative and personable former Duke Blue Devil.
"I'd like to get involved maybe with an ownership group. That'd be cool. Whether it's putting one together or trying to get one with somebody," Grant said. It's hard to imagine a player better suited to move straight from the hardwood to the board room.
For now, though, Grant's following the advice of a mentor, fellow Blue Devil David Rubenstein, the founder of the Carlyle Group, who told Grant not to worry about what comes next and to enjoy.
"Don't be so consumed with what you're going to do once it's over; just enjoy these years. You're smart enough to figure it out once the time comes. Enjoy the ride and understand it will end and when it ends," was the advice Grant said he was given by his friend.
"I think I've prepared myself to take advantage of those opportunities that present themselves. Maybe I'll join the media, too."
In addition to owning a team or becoming a member of the fourth estate, Grant might also turn his attentions to his business interests, which include some real estate development projects he's involved with.
As if that weren't enough, Grant's also trying his hand as a film producer. He is the Executive Producer of and narrates a documentary about Duke track coach Al Buehler called "Starting at the Finish Line: The Coach Buehler Story."
"I like inspiring stories. There's a number of them out there. I was talking to a 10-year-old. He talked about (The) Blind Side. He also talked about Glory Road. The stories behind them connect with people," Hill said in a recent USA Today interview. "To try and bring those stories to life, it would be kind of fun. It's just finding the right project and figuring out your game plan."
A rough cut of the film was screened at Duke in September, with a final version due in time to show at various film festivals. A trailer can be see at the project's web site.
We've been fortunate in Phoenix to watch Grant play these past three seasons and even now, at the ripe old age of 38, he does things on the basketball court that no one else can do. He's so smooth with the ball in his hands and plays angles and reads the floor as well as anyone in the game today. And yes, Grant can still get up and throw down, although these days he enjoys a good block as much as a nice jam.
As a "mature" basketball player, Hill's still learning how to maintain his body and prepare for the the grind of the season. He felt that there was breakthrough in the last six to eight weeks of last season that helped him recover faster.
"I learned a lot, man. I thought I got better at the end of back to backs. Getting my sleep, just little things here and there that I think help with recovery," Grant said about his routine that includes eating right, soaking in the cold pool after games, stretching and getting enough sleep -- something that's easier said than done, according to the father of two girls.
"If you're 45 or 25, you're going to have some games where you're tired."
Even in a recent game where his shot was not falling (1-for-9 from the field), it was Grant who was asked to inbound the ball with the Suns down two points and just .4 seconds on the clock. The lob pass Grant threw to Jason Richardson to tie the game in the Suns double-overtime win over Memphis reminded some of the pass he threw to Christian Laettner to give Duke an overtime win over Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
The Laettner pass came a few years before his professional career started and that lob to Richardson, with a defender blocking his view of the rim, is certainly not the last great thing Hill will do on the court, but there's no overlooking the bookend aspects of the two plays separated by 18 years.