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3-on-3: Remembering Grant Hill

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1. What was Grant Hill’s lasting impact on the Pistons?

Patrick Hayes: Leaving. It’s unfortunate, because Hill was a brilliant player as a Piston who deserves to be both applauded for what he did on some truly poorly constructed teams and also vilified for leaving as any star player would be, but because his departure was softened by acquiring a star who ushered in a new golden age in Ben Wallace, Hill’s Pistons career isn’t looked back on with great reverence or anger. I was a huge Grant Hill fan, I truly appreciated his effort as a Piston and was devastated when he left. But with the benefit of hindsight, leaving was the best thing he did for the franchise.

Brady Fredericksen: Angry, exciting and confusing. He was flat-out great in Detroit. You can talk about all of the ankle problems he had once he left Detroit — or even howhe left the team for greener pastures in Orlando — but when he was with the Pistons, few could compare. Patrick noted it in his post yesterday, but Hill put together some eye-popping numbers while player with old or average-at-best talent. The Detroit version of Hill was one of the league’s best players in one of the NBA’s deepest eras for star talent.

Dan Feldman: Getting them Ben Wallace. As good as Hill was with the Pistons, Wallace was better. Hill is no Milt Pappas, but his contributions will still be remembered more for the trade that sent him away. Hill never got the Pistons out of the first round, and he spent most of his time with the Pistons wearing a teal jersey. It wasn’t an ugly era of Detroit basketball (except for the uniforms), but it certainly wasn’t an inspiring one. The Wallace era was much brighter, and his teams were a perfect embodiment of the city. Fair or not, that leaves Hill’s lasting impact as only slightly more than a footnote to acquiring Wallace.

2. Should the Pistons retire Hill’s No. 33 jersey?

Patrick Hayes: Maybe. Detractors have already pointed to the fact that he played just six seasons as a Piston and didn’t leave under the greatest of circumstances. But there is precedent. The team just retired Dennis Rodman’s jersey, and he played only seven seasons as a Piston, forced his way out of town by making his unhappiness abundantly cleared and later won three titles with the Bad Boys’ greatest rivals in Chicago. The Pistons will also have interesting decisions with the members of their 2004 championship core. Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace didn’t have exceedingly long careers in Detroit, and all three left with varying degrees of turmoil (though Wallace later returned). It’s true, they have a title and Hill doesn’t, but he’s also a likely Hall of Famer. I’m on the fence. As a compromise, the Pistons should retire Hill’s 33, but do it on a teal banner. That way, they can effectively ‘retire’ but also pay tribute to that entire lost era all at once. Let players continue to wear 33 as long as the jersey is using the classic color scheme. But if the team ever switches back to teal again, 33 won’t be worn. Sound fair?

Brady Fredericksen: Yes. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it doesn’t matter that Hill’s shortish tenure in Detroit didn’t yield any real playoff success — he’s one of the franchise’s best. There were very few guys who were as great as Hill during his Pistons’ years, and he was a staple in the MVP voting, finishing as high as third in 1995-96. He was just so good, even if only for a short time, that you can’t ignore it. Hall of Famer Bob Lanier struggled to lift some below-average Pistons’ teams to the promise land, too.

Dan Feldman: No. Hill played just six years for the Pistons. There was debate whether Dennis Rodman’s seven years with the team were enough to justify his jersey retirement, and though I said yes in that case, six years from a player who never won a playoff series falls well short seven years from a player who won two championships. Hill chose to turn his back on the Pistons in 2000, and while any anger has long subsided, they don’t need to embrace him now with such an honor.

3. Taking his entire basketball career into perspective, does Grant Hill join Jason Kidd in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018?

Patrick Hayes: Maybe. I’m sure Hill is going into the Hall of Fame. I’m not convinced he’ll be a first-ballot guy. His accomplishments in six years pre-injury were great, and his four-year career at Duke was one of the best college careers in recent NCAA history, so that helps his case too. His reputation as a nice guy with the media shouldn’t build his or anyone’s case, but it inevitably will. And, if we’re talking in an intangible way, the fact that he came back from devastating injuries at such an advanced age and became a reliable and healthy rotation player late into his 30s is worthy of discussing. Hill is going to the Hall of Fame, but unlike Kidd, I don’t think he deserves to get the honor in his first year of eligibility.

Brady Fredericksen: Eventually, he will. They call it the Basketball Hall of Fame, which means there’s more to it than just the NBA side of things. There’s a legitimate argument that Hill is the quintessential face of college hoops. He was a college star, an NBA star and a gold medalist in the 1996 Olympics. Hill’s impact on basketball has been something that few have replicated; and he had one of the greatest revivals after joining the Phoenix Suns late in his career. It might not be on the first-ballot, but he’ll be in — I mean, no one has been able to pull off the teal quite like Hill did.

Dan Feldman: I rarely predict whether players will make the Hall of Fame, simply because the process is so convoluted and the choices are so seemingly arbitrary. I don’t like the Hall of Fame’s setup, honoring all basketball accomplishments as if coaching/playing well in college and coaching/playing well in the NBA are remotely equal, but that’s the system. I’ll break my rule in this case, because Hill is a lock. If Hill had never played in the NBA, his time at Duke alone probably would get him in. Add a long, productive NBA career – one that included an extremely high, if short-lived, peak – and Hill’s likable personality, and there’s no way the fools who pick Hall of Famers will leave him out. I would thoroughly enjoy a debate on whether Hill belongs in a hypothetical NBA Hall of Fame, though.


  • Jun 4, 20134:18 pm
    by tarsier


    He was a phenomenal player, but he really didn’t mean much to the Pistons franchise. Isn’t impact on the franchise/team basically the definition of what gets your jersey retired?

    • Jun 4, 20134:31 pm
      by Brady Fredericksen


      I know what you mean, but there’s a part of me that also thinks that a supremely talented player should have a spot in the rafters. There is a legit argument that if we’re constructing an All-Time Pistons team that Grant Hill — as a Piston — would be your starting SF along with Zeke, JoeD, Ben Wallace and Bob Lanier. I think Grant Hill was too good as a Piston to just ignore.

      • Jun 5, 20138:13 am
        by tarsier


        I would definitely put him on an all-time Pistons team.

        But I think the point of retiring a jersey is that the player worked his way into the fans’ hearts to the point where that number means that person to them and it would feel wrong to see someone else where that number for their team (it’s essentially the one point at which we are not rooting for laundry). If that’s not the point, why retire jerseys at all?

        If teams just put these names in the rafters to celebrate their greatness–without blocking future players from using the number–I could see it being about recognizing that it was a great player who played for the team. But I guess that additional detail makes me think that it means more.

        • Jun 5, 20138:40 am
          by Steve K


          I see both sides on this one. No doubt Hill is the best Piston SF I’ve ever seen. Still, he didn’t win his “way into the fans’ hearts” like tarsier said.
          Despite Rodman’s bizarre tenure as a Piston, he left a more significant impression with the fans. Same with all the Goin’ To Work guys.
          My vote would be “no” for the jersey retiring.

  • Jun 4, 20135:05 pm
    by Mike


    If you take into account the All-Star appearances, the good citizen he was and how much the fans loved him he is on a second par with Dave Bing. His stint was much shorter though but he helped provide some hope for Pistons fans between the Bad Boys end and the beginning of Wallace, Billups, etc… I believe this earns him a spot in the rafters. There was also a debate as to whether the core of the ’04 team should have their numbers retired and the answer is yes. Like the core of the back to backs each star brought something to the table B. Wallace, (the Anchor, The Foundation, the D) Tayshaun (The D, the clutch shooting and the true Kobe stopper along with having the longest tenure) Rip (the leading scorer) and Chauncey (the closer and Mr. Big Shot) Rasheed should be honored in some way but not have his jersey retired (he was to 04 what Mark Aguirre was to 89)

  • Jun 4, 20135:34 pm


    After the bad boy era , Grant Hill put the Pistons back on the Map… I believe Hill for not winning, especially when you look at the 2nd and 3rd options he was given. I even blame him for leaving, I mean think about Tracy McgradySG, HILL SF and they thought Duncan was coming along. Hill was one of the dominate players in a league of elite players. The Pistons should retire 33, and they should hire him somewhere in the front office.

  • Jun 4, 20136:37 pm
    by Piston Truth


    I think as far as him retrieing his number as a pistion I like the teal Idea that pat mentoned, thats where he had the best years of his carreer but he did get drfted in the red white and blue. I know at that time they was tring to make him the face of the team and they tried to jazz the team up with hiper colors and another look to have him be the face, but I agree it should all be a “parting of the ways” with the teal and his no 33 if it ever happens. Mabey even have a “teal night” where the current players wear the awful color for one last night paying omage to Hill. But to me I think he has to bring his face back to the organization either in the front office or mabey working local TV probaly with Kelser and Blaha as a 3 man team play by play, the radio with Champion, or even the FSD studio and replace mateen ( I think his knowledge will be more sharper and smarter than Mateen’s) even thought I think mateen has improved on televison. But to give the fans more of a look and I think for him that will be a way for him to give back after leaving so soon in 2000 that way he would have to earn it a little more to get that 33 retired in the raftors.

  • Jun 4, 20139:13 pm
    by DTroyEveryThang


    Man, Grant Hill seem like a great guy, but if he’s not dead, it’s better things to talk about like, who’s the next Pistons coach, or who will the Pistons Draft next? As soon as Grant Hill left Detroit, I was over him, so I don’t care if retire or come back like Jordan, as long as it’s not in a Pistons uniform, i’m cool. NEXT TOPIC!

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  • Jun 5, 20136:44 am
    by Derek AKA Redeemed


    I don’t blame Grant for not winning the ‘ship during his short stint in the D.  When I look back on what was around him, there just wasn’t enough to make a credible stand against Hawks (Blalock, Steve Smith, and Mutombo), Magic (healthy Penny, young Shaq, and strong complimentary players), or the Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, and Horace Grant…then Rodman).

    He had an old Dumars, a feuding Allan Houston, and not much else.  Grant took that team and carried them in every conceiveable way.  He bridge the gap between the Bad Boys and the Goin to Work regime.  He kept us relevant and exciting…He faced criticism for not being a tough guy when he had significant and misdiagnosed foot problems from Duke on through to Orlando.

    Grant was doing the spectacular stuff Lebron James does now, playing and guarding all five positions.  He was one of the greatest players we have had.  He kept me from going into mourning as I watched my favorite player of all time get snub for the 92 Olympic team and later tear his Achilles and go into retirement.

  • Sep 1, 20132:41 pm
    by John Clark


    No. Though I loved Grant Hill. he was better than Kobe at the time he started having ankle problems (of course, Kobe went on to surpass Hill by leaps and bounds), and who knows just how great Hill would have turned out to be. I think he unfairly took the blame for the Piston’s failures during that time. But Joe Dumars was just starting as GM, and Hill didn’t give him a chance to build a team around him that was worthy of greatness. His pursuit of a ring took him to Orlando with Tracey McGrady (they also made a bid for Tim Duncan, but Duncan wisely stayed in San Antonio). The Pistons winning without Hill was great vindication for the organization, you see how Lebron leaving Cleveland effected that organization. he went on to win two championships. Hill had no such luck. however, the pistons did without him. And you just KNOW Hill now second guesses his decision to leave. He could have gotten that ring that eluded him for 19 years. maybe more than one ring! Hill had no idea that the Pistons were capable of winning enough games to get out of the first round of the play-offs without him, LET ALONE winning a championship without him! I am 100% certain that he agonizes about the Pistons winning without him in 2004. thats just how the human ego works! I dont think You reward a person for deserting you at a pivotal point in your franchises history. 

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