In his first NBA regular-season game, Grant Hill showed he would one day become a great NBA pro. Already during the 1994 NBA preseason, the 6’8” high-flying point forward from Duke opened quite a few eyes by averaging 17+ points, nearly as he did as a senior in Duke (17.4ppg). But the real test came on this date, 27 years ago.
Hill's NBA debut
On the regular season’s opening night, Hill’s Pistons faced the Lakers on November 4th, 1994. Closely guarded by a defensive specialist he faced many times while in college, Lakers small forward George Lynch, Hill quickly went to work. Pistons rookie scored the first two points of his 18-year long NBA career on a break. Terry Mills led the break, fed the ball to a cutting Hill on the wing, and rookie went for an easy deuce over 7’1” Vlade Divac.
A couple of plays later, Hill earned his first standing ovation from 21,454 fans when he made a spectacular slam dunk, flying across the paint and earning a compliment from the legendary Lakers TV broadcaster Chick Hearn. Soon enough, lanky Hill was all over the court, fully displaying his ability to excel in the open court and then complete the plays using his extraordinary leaping ability.
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This brilliant rookie is going to get a lot of headlines throughout the year.
Chick Hearn, ">Lakers TV broadcaster
However, as graceful as he was, Hill was still at the beginning of his NBA rookie learning curve. Late in the game, he tried to dunk over Lakers’ twin towers Divac and 7’1” Sam Bowie. It was Divac who rejected this brave attempt by the rookie. A couple of plays later, Hill posted up much smaller Lakers rookie point guard Nick Van Exel. He got the ball and went up for a shot across him. But in the process, he was called for an offensive foul by legendary NBA official Dick Bavetta.
The final stat line
Hill concluded his memorable NBA premiere with a long two-pointer just inside the three-point arc, within a minute to go in a game. The Pistons eventually lost the season opener by 115-98, and Hill finished the game with 25 points (on 8-19 shooting), ten boards, five assists, and three blocked shots. For the season, Hill averaged 19.9ppg, 6.4rpg, and 5.0apg. The spectacular Pistons rookie eventually shared the 1994-95 NBA Rookie of the Year Award with the Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd.