Grant Hill isn't being overt about it, which is typical for him, but it's clear that he blames the Detroit Pistons' medical staff for misdiagnosing an ankle injury that led to the scuttling of his career back in the 1999-00 season.
NBA fans don't reflect on it as much they probably should 11 years later, but the drama surrounding Grant Hill's free-agent choice in 2000 was probably the closest thing we've had to LeBron James' "Decision"-type intrigue since the NBA's free-agent era began. Nearly every road game of Hill's final season as a Detroit Piston saw countless writers ask Hill about his plans for the summer of 2000, when Hill himself didn't know where he was eventually headed, and the whole experience took its toll on a middling Pistons team.
So much so that Hill, ever the professional, likely ruined his career in order to avoid of-their-day charges that he was taking it easy in his potential final days as a Piston. Detroit was in the running for a playoff spot deep in the 1999-00 season when Hill came up lame with an ankle injury, and immediately the on-record catcalls wondered aloud as to the severity of the injury, and whether or not it was just the free-agent-to-be's way of guarding himself as the big pay day approached in the summertime.
It wasn't, Hill attempted to deflect criticism by playing through the injury during a playoff series against Miami, and instead he injured the ankle more severely as a result. He then returned from injury way too early in an attempt to stave off the same criticism after joining the Orlando Magic the following summer, he barely played the rest of the decade, and he's still a little wary of those final few months in Michigan.
"I (had been) told everything was fine. I even found out that certain team doctors were questioning whether I was really hurt, thinking I was soft or whatever. This was after I had pulled myself from Game 2 against the Heat. At that time, when I found out I had broken my ankle, as crazy as this sounds, I was relieved. I finally had some confirmation, I finally had proof that I'm really not making it up."
It's a shame that nobody seems to remember the genesis of what essentially put the kibosh on Hill's career. The pressure on him to not appear as if he had a case of senioritis was so great that he limped through an NBC-aired game against Philadelphia with what was obviously an ankle injury that needed weeks to heal, but the criticism about his impending free agency (a turn he did absolutely nothing to promote in-season, unlike James) was so strong that Hill played on.
And it absolutely ruined his career. No way around it.
- Grant Hill
- Detroit Pistons