’18 was a massive year for Grant Hill. He first received the highest honors a basketball player can receive – induction to the Hall of Fame. The ultimate ‘what if’ player in NBA history got his career validation as he joined the elite group of basketball legends. But ’18 still wasn’t done. Something else happened for Hill the same year. Something that will set him up for life.
After his Hall of Fame induction, Grant Hill signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Fila. It was sort of a ‘welcome back to the family’ type of moment, as Hill was with Fila when he entered the league in ’94. A young kid from Duke, going with an Italian brand over the likes of Nike or Adidas, caught the basketball world by surprise. But what happened next became an even bigger one.
Hill became the fourth NBA rookie ever with a signature shoe. Not only that, but his debut GH1 sold more than $1.5 million pairs during his rookie year. Let me put that into perspective; the only debut signature shoe that sold more was Air Jordan 1 precisely ten years before Hill’s first sneakers were launched. GH 1 were the main reason company’s market share doubled, as Fila became a well-known brand in a basketball world.
Their success continued with the launch of GH 2, as Fila became the second biggest shoe company in the U.S., leaving both Reebok and Adidas behind. Hill was viewed as the next big thing in the league. Fila recognized it, and luckily for both – the whole NBA world recognized it. That’s why the Italian-based company was happy to offer Hill a new deal worth $80 million over seven years, at the time the biggest shoe-deal extension.
It all went downhill from that moment, as Hill started battling with a series of foot and ankle injuries. It resulted in them parting ways after the deal expired in’04, and Fila was never able to get back on track. And to be honest, neither was Hill.
Some are speculating about Hill going with Fila contributing to his injuries. Because let’s face it, they didn’t have Nike’s resources nor expertise. Charles Barkley was among those, as he publicly criticized the quality of their shoes after Hill was sidelined for the ’01 season with ankle injuries.
“When you’re wearing cheap shoes, and you don’t wear Nike, it’s going to happen. They gave him all that money to wear those cheap Filas.”Charles Barkley
That’s why, after his deal with Fila expired, Hill decided to go with Nike. And say what you want, but he did play the game more consistently. Hill even played a full 82 games season, something he hasn’t been able to do while wearing Filas. Shoes probably weren’t the only reason for it, but you can’t tell me they weren’t part of the equation. Hill going with Nike might have prolonged his playing career.
As it turned out, it’s not the only thing they did for Hill. According to former Phoenix Suns‘ exec, Hill’s deal with Nike was about to bring him a huge bonus back in ’09. That, of course, if the last game of the season went as planned.
“Grant Hill needed like 15 points to average 12 points per game on the year, and if he does, he gets like a gazillion dollar bonus from Nike. In the back of our minds, we know we want Grant Hill to score.”Phoenix suns exec
I did the math. Hill didn’t need 15 points; he needed 26. The Suns sure went out of their way to make sure Hill got it. G-Money averaged 9 shots a game for the season. That night, he took a team-high 25. And he wasn’t nearly efficient enough, as he only converted 7 of his field-goal attempts. However, he did go to the line 16 times, draining 13 of them. Hill finished the game with 27 points, just about enough for a bonus from Nike.