grant hill

Originally published in SLAM 16

Word on the streets was that Grant Hill was soft. Mild-mannered like Clark Kent, proper like Martha Stewart. Too mellow to really get ill, take the game over. He was fully Krzyzewski-ized, just too well behaved, too polite to take the ball to the rack hard, represent Detroit like Detroit is supposed to be represented. Bad Boy? Please. His parents would never stand for it.

That was last year.

Just ask Mark Davis. The second-year pro was asked to guard Mr. Hill when the Pistons rolled into Philly’s brand new CoreStates Center on November 5. It was a bad night for Davis. Bad enough that he got lit up for 22 points, 14 boards and 9 assists. Bad enough that he had to try and check one of the best young players in the league. But it got worse. Hill got mad.

Late in the fourth, with the game tight, it was time for the Pistons to make a statement, to show whose house it was really was. Seein’ that Allan Houston was busy dealin’ with the Lake Show in NY and Bill Laimbeer isn’t a basketball player anymore—he just plays one on TV—it was all up to Hill. No problem.

Davis, who’d been thoroughly posterized by Hill with a vicious one-handed jam just minutes before, was checkin’ him down on the baseline. Jerry Stackhouse came off of his man to double-team as the ball came in. Hill spun out and back towards the lane. Davis made the mistake of tryin’ to hang; Stack stepped. He played in the ACC—he knew what was comin’ next, and he didn’t want any.

Two dribbles, drop step, boom. Hill went up just inside the paint and dropped the bomb on Davis with both hands, just to make sure. He hung on for a moment too, just to make sure everyone recognized what was really going on. This wasn’t just a dunk—it was a rebirth. The game came down to the last shot, but for real? That was it.

Grant Hill, too soft? Right. Just ask Mark Davis…

Russ Bengtson