Q+A: Grant Hill

Alex Stoddard is a veteran writer here at SLAMonline, and he’s still in the eighth grade. As a sixth grader, Alex got his first byline and has been writing ever since. Alex and several of his classmates and teammates recently interviewed former NBA All-Star Grant Hill for Alex’s Game Time Magazine. Check out their conversation below.—Ed.

Interview by Alex Stoddard, Max Tracey, Mathias Tankersley

Recently, Game Time Magazine had a chance to catch up with former NBA star Grant Hill about his world beyond basketball and his charitable efforts. He recently made a $1 million donation to the athletic facilities at Duke University and to Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to the interview we reviewed Grant’s website related to his philanthropic work. We found that his website does a great job at putting context around him and his work. Here’s what the site says:

“Grant Hill is more than just a professional basketball player. However, it is not only Hill’s on-court play making and talent that impresses people. It’s also his off-court personality that truly makes him transcend beyond the court. Hill’s strong work ethic, humble and gracious attitude, academic achievements, and strong family ties combined with his overwhelming success and good sportsmanship on the court, makes him a perfect choice for a role model. Although many athletes shy away from being labeled as a role model, Hill embraces the idea. Off the court, he tries to lead by setting positive examples.”

Now, here’s what we learned from Grant during our recent interview related to his philanthropic work:

Game Time: You have dedicated so much time and money to philanthropy. What motivates you to give back?

Grant Hill: There are a number of things that have played a role in motivating me to give back. One, having some really good examples growing up. My parents were constantly trying to help others by dedicating their time and resources in a number of different ways. When I was young and impressionable, seeing what my parents were doing had a tremendous impact on me. Two, during my time in college, being around Coach K, understanding the influence of athletes and being part of a high-profile program also allowed me to see the impact of giving back. Many of the things that we did within the Durham community played a role in building on a strong foundation. So, since I was in a position to do a number of things as a kid with my parents and while a student at Duke, my giving back now is just a continuation of my experiences at home with my parents and my time in school.

I think you come to realize as you get to a certain point, graduate from college, reach a certain level of success, you realize that there were a number of people who helped you along the way, some directly and some indirectly. It’s an enjoyable experience to be in a position to be helpful. You don’t have to be an NBA basketball player or be on the Forbes 500 list, we can all help and give back by creating opportunities for others regardless of who we are and what position we hold.

Game Time: You support many different causes, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, your scholarship endowment fund and community development. How do you choose which causes to support?

GH: My wife and I have always understood that education is vital, and that education is lacking in so many communities. Through the years we’ve managed to support education through these causes. Education is one of the consistent themes we’ve supported through scholarships at Duke University and at several high schools.

In terms of other organizations and charities that we support—this depends on where we are, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve been exposed to. In general, we enjoy working with children and by supporting educational initiatives. We are allowed the opportunity to impact all kids, especially kids that may not be as fortunate to have a strong education platform.

Game Time: Do you have a favorite cause or charity to support? If so, what is it and why?

GH: I don’t necessarily have a favorite cause or charity. It would be like having to pick a favorite child; they’re all good. I enjoy programs and causes that are based on education. At a particular time, I may have identified something that I enjoy or that’s on my mind—something I really want to get behind financially, with various resources and with my time. All of the organizations that my wife and I support are having an impact and doing great work. We try not only to support them financially but also, hopefully, we are able to add value through our experiences, insights and our network of contacts. Regarding having a favorite, perhaps we should have one. Getting behind one organization and being 100 percent committed could be very valuable to that organization. However, there are so many great groups that are doing wonderful things that it would be hard for us to narrow it down to one organization.

Game Time: Tell us about the mission of the Grant Hill Foundation?

GH: There really is no specific mission statement or an established organization structure for the GH Foundation. The Foundation is a vehicle for my wife and me to donate money. For initiatives that are near and dear to our hearts—at a particular point in time—we use the Foundation to contribute money and support. If I had to provide a mission statement for the Foundation it would be “to make a difference and have an impact on the lives of young people.”

Many times when people look at philanthropy and at the generosity from people who have given a lot of money, people get intimidated and say, “I don’t have that [money],” or “I don’t have those kind of resources, so I can’t participate in giving,” but that’s not the case. We all can participate, and we all can give. It’s about the spirit of giving that matters most.

Game Time: Since you were a pro athlete and still a very public figure, do you feel that you have more responsibility when it comes to philanthropy?

GH: Yes, regardless of whether you’re a successful pro athlete, or in industry, academia or services—you didn’t get there on your own. There were many people that paved the way for me. It was their hard work and sacrifices that created the opportunities. I think one should “pay it forward” by giving back and helping others.

[For athletes] I think it’s a responsibility. We have a platform, an audience and we have young people who hang on to every word or everything athletes do, and with that, comes a huge responsibility. It’s something all of us should take seriously and understand the importance.

Game Time: You recently donated $1 million to Duke’s athletic facilities. Why did you choose to donate to the athletic facilities?

GH: I believe that people have the perception that a private university, a school like Duke University is has an unlimited amount of financial resources. However, universities, like Duke, survive on the generosity of their alumni. It was through philanthropy that Duke was able to initially become a great regional college and has now become one of the leading international universities. As an alumni, you want to continue to make your alma mater a special place that continues to improve and be the best that it can be.

Game Time: How did dealing with injuries change how you played, and what did this teach you about dealing with injuries and obstacles in life?

GH: I was very fortunate that my four years in college and my first six years in the NBA were fantastic. I was playing at a high level. Fortunately things came early for me in my career. Then I had a rash of injuries and misfortune and uncertainty about whether I would ever play again. I was able to come back, and it was very fulfilling. Obviously, I wasn’t the same player, there were restrictions in terms of my ankle and I was not able to play at the level that I played at during my first six years. However, I was still able to contribute. Going through that dark period, going through the injury and the surgeries—there were many life lessons and learning experiences that I’ve benefitted from, and those experiences have made me a better person.

Game Time: What one piece of advice would you give us, not related to basketball?

GH: The key pieces of advice that I would communicate are: life is not easy and requires hard work, and education and college are very important. College taught me how to think, how to solve problems and most importantly, college taught me how to endure. I believe that college is a microcosm of life, regardless of who you are, what you’ve done or what you’ve accomplished.

Success, on and off the court, requires hard work. It requires being persistent, and it requires believing in yourself. Do not expect anything to be handed to you; you have to work extremely hard to achieve your goals. Hard work is the key, and I certainly try to emphasize this to my own children, and the kids that I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with.