Let me start out by saying that Grant Hill was a fantastic basketball player. There was a time when Grant Hill was the NBA’s next big thing. He led the NBA All-Star game’s fan voting in his rookie year, and again the next year (which also happened to be the same year that fellow NBA shooting guard, Michael Jordan, returned from baseball). He has won awards for his sportsmanship and has made numerous charitable contributions, all while maintaining integrity, class, and was a shining example for young athletes everywhere. As a person and a player, Grant Hill was exemplary.
With that being said, I think there is a case to be made that Rafer Alston or Vince Carter made more of a positive impact on the Magic than Grant Hill did. Grant Hill played a total of less than three full seasons during the seven seasons that the Magic had the rights to his services. Grant Hill was 9 of 40 from three point range for his entire career in Orlando and only played in four playoff games while wearing a Magic uniform. I am not saying that Grant Hill doesn’t deserve honoring; I am saying he doesn’t deserve it from the Magic. There are too many former Magic players out there that are ahead of Grant in multiple franchise categories and to bring Grant Hill out to Orlando for praise is to create a situation for potential embarrassment. There is no winner in this scenario. The fans that will boo Grant obviously aren’t very happy about his return. The fans that don’t want Grant booed aren’t going to get their way and will sympathize for him while also wishing that Orlando had not done this. I’d imagine Grant Hill has a certain level of expectations himself, having been booed on multiple return trips to Orlando.
The Magic traded Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace for Hill. (Imagine how good Orlando could have been if T-Mac had Ben Wallace patrolling the paint!) Grant Hill and the Magic were in a very tough situation when Hill was in Orlando. He spent a lot of time rehabilitating, fighting a staph infection, and trying to get back to playing the high level of basketball that he was playing in Detroit. Orlando was supposed to have a superstar tag-team in Hill and McGrady. Instead, Tracy McGrady (literally) broke his back carrying the Magic while Grant Hill did everything he could to get back out on the court. After leaving Orlando, he played 70 games for the Suns, which is more than he played in ANY of his single seasons in Orlando. The year after that? He played in all 82 games for the Phoenix Suns. He played well enough in Phoenix to get signed again afterward by the L.A. Clippers.
By inviting Grant Hill to be a part of the Magic’s “Legend’s Night,” the Magic are, by no fault of Grant’s, setting him up to be booed. Orlando’s fan base is known for holding a grudge (Ask Dwight), and I expect that Orlando hasn’t quite let this one go yet either. This feeling of Magic fans didn’t happen overnight, over the course of one season, or even over the course of one contract. Magic fans patiently awaited the Grant Hill of Duke and Piston allure coming back at full strength to compliment Tracy McGrady. Instead, when it was clear that Grant Hill’s career was over, it wasn’t. He went to Phoenix and started playing productive basketball. I think that fans in Orlando wish that Grant Hill could have given them the level of production they all expected, and remain bitter that he conveniently got healthy enough to contribute to a team AFTER leaving Orlando. What could the front office have taken away from their experience with honoring Dwight that makes honoring Grant Hill seem like a good idea? I am starting to get nervous about the idea that the last two Friday night Magic home games could be spent honoring Fran Vazquez and Gilbert Arenas.
Grant Hill was an elite basketball talent and continues to be a professional analyst and role model. The Magic are a well-run organization that seems to strive to consistently to do the right thing. I find it unfortunate that both parties find themselves in this awkward predicament and wonder if this could have been handled differently or more effectively.
Do you think Grant Hill should be honored by the Magic in Orlando? Do you think there could have been a better choice? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.