What makes someone a hall of famer? It’s more than just stats and numbers. Popularity comes into it, and likability. Despite being “great” for a relatively low number of seasons, Grant Hill might become an basketball Hall of Fame inductee in the near future, despite his retirement not really leaving a gaping hole in heart of the league.
When you try to look at his NBA career, which spanned 19 seasons but included only 1026 games, including missing the entire 2003-2004 season due to one of his many injuries, the “great” part of it ended after six seasons. The rest? There was good and useful, but not much more. He averaged only 54 games a season since entering the NBA, and even being a triple double machine during the early stretch of his career and being one of only six players in the NBA’s history with an average of 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists per game through his first six seasons in the league (along with LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson), the rest wasn’t as impressive.
After the 1999-2000 season, in which he averaged 25.8 points with 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, the new version of the point forward and one of the best players in the NBA entered a terrible spiral of injuries once he left the Detroit Pistons for the Orlando Magic. He played in only four games in his first season with the Magic, 14 games in his second and 29 in his third before sitting out an entire season.
He made his comeback in the 2004-2005 season and averaged 19.7 pointer per game, playing in 67 games. This wasn’t the old Grant Hill, but he was still one of the better small forwards in the league when healthy, but the next season, playing in only 21 games, showed that things might never be the same for the 7-time All-Star.
From here it was only downhill in terms of production, although Hill found a place with the Phoenix Suns, with Steve Nash having the ability to make a washed up Hill look like a very efficient player on the wing, averaging at least 11.3 points per game in his first four seasons with the Suns, including shooting over 50% from the field during his first couple of years in Arizona.
His retirement season was supposed to be about adding veteran leadership off a loaded bench for the Los Angeles Clippers, but he played in only 29 games, averaging 3.2 points per game. Hill retired after playing only once for the Clippers in the postseason, and only 39 games in his NBA career. The only time he had more than 5 games to play in the postseason was in 2009-2010, when the Suns reached the Western Conference Finals.
So Hill was rookie of the year, a multiple-time All-Star and even on the All-NBA first team once, to go along with four more All-NBA second team appearances. Yet being dominant for six seasons, maybe six and a half if you include that one comeback season with the Magic, doesn’t make a player worthy of the hall of fame, as likable and popular as he was. There are players with more impressive careers who still haven’t gotten in and probably never will.
Voting is subjective, and numbers alone can’t determine a player’s eligibility and project if he’ll end up inside. But longevity should be rewarded if its about excellence, or close to it, not mediocrity. Hill was unlucky to have his NBA career derailed in his prime, but luck is part of the package, and when you look objectively at his influence on the NBA during his almost 20 years in the league, Hill wasn’t that important to grant him a place among immortals.