Grant Hill grew up loving basketball, and he admits he can thank his football-playing father, Calvin, for that.
During Grant’s teenage years, he and Calvin — a running back for the Dallas Cowboys — went on annual trips to the Final Four. It was quality time for father and son, a chance for them to share in the majesty of college basketball together.
On Saturday, before his induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday night in Kansas City, Grant allowed himself to reminisce about those times, and how sweet it was to have his entire family, particularly his father, witness the ceremony.
“He helped introduce me to the game, to college basketball,” Hill, 42, said of his father. “To have a chance to play in the Final Four and have it come full circle, now, to sort of celebrate what I was able to do and have my dad here, I know he’s just as excited and proud as I am.”
Grant Hill, who starred for Duke from 1990 to 1994 and won two national championships, could not have been more correct. While he spoke to reporters in a pre-induction news conference, Calvin Hill stood a few feet away, beaming alongside the rest of the family — Grant’s mother, Janet, Grant’s wife, Tamia, and their daughters, Myla and Lael.
Duke was well-represented at the induction ceremony as well, in spirit. In a video tribute to Hill, Blue Devils past and present praised the 1994 consensus All-America, and coach Mike Krzyzewski issued the highest compliment, calling Hill, “the most talented player I’ve coached at Duke.”
Calvin Hill also allowed for some reflection. Time goes fast, and they’ve certainly come a long way.
Calvin remembers walking around at the 1985 Final Four at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., allowing himself to think about how cool it would be if his son could one day play in a Final Four.
“His eyes are big, and mine are, too, looking at the festival that is the Final Four,” Calvin Hill said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is unbelievable. As a father, wouldn’t it be great if he could just be a part of something like this?’”
So, when the dream came true during the 1991 Final Four — Grant Hill’s freshman year at Duke — Calvin Hill was grateful.
“As a father, as a parent, anything you’ve done pales in comparison to anything your kids do because you want the best for them and you worry,” he said. “I remember walking outside in Indianapolis that year and looking up in the sky, and just saying ’God, I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but thank you.’
“It’s been a blessing to follow him.”
Janet Hill acknowledged that when her husband took Grant on those trips to the Final Four, he never did it with the thought his son would one day become a college star.
“He took him, really, for some alone time with him,” Janet said with a laugh.
But those trips did shape Grant Hill, and for that, he is grateful to his father. He also is grateful for his 18-year NBA career, which was marred in his prime by significant ankle injuries. Still, Grant Hill has made peace with this.
“I had the injuries, and things got derailed,” he said. “But I know I had to really fight to resume my career. I’m more proud of what I was able to do after the injury than before. I knew it took a lot of fight and grit to come back and play after nine years.”
One thing retirement has given him plenty of time for is reflection.
“Having just retired, having a chance to reflect on your career, it’s something I really value,” he said. “I understand how lucky I was.”
That’s why the ceremony Sunday night meant so much to him and his family.
“It is an honor to be honored,” Tamia Hill of her husband. “He’s not a guy who mentions getting honored a lot, but he made sure we were all here, and it means a lot to him. It does.”
Grant Hill is certainly not alone there. Calvin Hill said he was “afraid to pinch” himself following the ceremony, and Grant Hill couldn’t have been happier that his father was in attendance.
“The journey started a long time ago,” Grant Hill said. “And for him to still be here is great.”