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Why Grant Hill didn't like being called the next Michael Jordan — “I thought it was foolish”

Grant Hill didn't like being mentioned in the same sentence with Michael Jordan. But he still took advantage of his newfound fame.
Duke University guard Grant Hill and Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Grant Hill and Michael Jordan

Not a lot of players have been compared to Michael Jordan. Grant Hill was one of the few who many believed was the Air Apparent. But the forward himself thought it was “foolish,” especially given Detroit Pistons’ performance during his first year.

Not the next Michael Jordan

Hill entered the league as the third overall pick in 1994. And right out of the gates, Hill proved that he was the next big star of basketball. He averaged 19.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. These numbers, if translated to words, read “superstar.”

Hill was catapulted to fame. He signed deals, appeared in commercials, and was named the next Jordan - the NBA was desperate to find "the next Jordan" at the time. This was puzzling to the inherently competitive Duke standout. After all, while he was padding the stat sheet, the Pistons weren’t winning games.

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I was surprised at all the fans because they kept trying to make me the face of the league. I’m thinking, 'We won 28 games, my friend. I’ve still got a lot to learn.' But that first year was crazy, man. Like it was, you know, new shoes, you got commercials, endorsements. They were trying to call me the next Jordan. I thought it was foolish, but I leveraged that. I didn’t turn down the deals, but it was hard because we were losing,” Hill said, per All The Smoke.

Bittersweet is the perfect word to describe Hill’s first season in the NBA. Apart from being a tremendous player, he’s also a savvy businessman. He knows that being in the spotlight provides one with a lot of opportunities. Besides, who’s foolish enough to decline a multi-million dollar deal from a shoe company?

What ifs

Though Hill played 18 seasons in the NBA, he’s mostly remembered for his first six years in the league when played for the Pistons. An ankle injury in his last season in Detroit hampered him for the rest of his career.

Hill was supposed to form a lethal superstar tandem in Orlando with Tracy McGrady. But alas, he spent more time on the bench than on the court. When he was healthy enough to put up heavier minutes, McGrady was gone, and it was clear to everyone that Hill’s All-Star chops had withered away.

Despite this, many are impressed how Hill didn’t just give up on his NBA career. His five-year stint with the Phoenix Suns was his renaissance. He was no longer the star but he embraced being a role player. Hill improved his 3-point shot which made him a good complement to Steve Nash’s playmaking. Yes, Grant Hill did not turn out to be the next Michael Jordan. But he's still one of the most recognizable players of his era. 

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