Lipa City, Batangas
June 4, 2013
Kids of the Hill
I will not talk about the San Antonio Spurs, the Western Conference champions. Nor dwell on the heated, protracted Eastern Conference Finals battle between LeBron James and the Miami Cavaliers, I mean Heat, and the Indiana Pacers. I’ve just decided to completely, wholeheartedly talk about two of the classiest acts in the NBA planet—Jason Kidd and Grant Hill.
You see, both Kidd and Hill have retired recently, ending what had been a pair of incredible, stellar careers. You have one who is one the NBA’s best point guards and another who is one of the most admirable forwards of our time. And this blog is my tribute to both Kidd and Hill.
Let’s start with Kidd.
A one-time NBA champion being part of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks that annihilated guess who? Miami. Before that, he carried the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals in 2001-02 and 2002-03 before eventually losing twice, first in a sweep at the hands Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers and then to Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. His other teams are the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks, which happened to be his last stop.
Kidd is also a 10-time NBA All-Star, five-time All-NBA First Team, four-time All-Defensive First Team, five-time All-Defensive Second team, five-time NBA assists leader, NBA skills challenge champion in 2003 and a two-time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship award. And there are more like having a career average of 12.6 points, 8.7 assists and 1.9 steals. Have told you that Kidd has never lost whenever he plays for the USA basketball team? Yes, he played for the US team that copped the golds in the 2000 Sydney and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Kidd is an all-around player. More known as a facilitator, Kidd can also shoot the ball, dunk it, create his own shots, rebound, has a quick hands for steals, deflections and a blocked shot from here and there. He’s Mr. Everything most of his career.
Now let’s talk about Hill.
A seven-time All-Star, a one-time All-NBA First Team, a four-time All-NBA Second Team, recipient of the NBA Sportsmanship Award thrice. He piled of career norms of 16.7 points, six rebounds and 4.1 assists. During his prime, he was once considered as one of the many of Michael Jordan’s Heir Apparent. Imagine being groomed as a probable His Airness 2.0? That’s something. But he got into injury troubles the rest of his career. Made a successful, if not miraculous, comeback with the Suns where he played solidly as a starter before he moved to the LA Clippers to play side-by-side with Chris Paul himself and Blake Griffin for perhaps one final, desperate shot for glory. He never won an NBA championship. But he won the hearts of many including mine.
While he failed to win a single NBA title, he had one too many as a college player. In fact, Hill and Christian Laettner, the lone amateur player in the Original Dream Team, helped Duke to two straight US NCAA championships in 1991 and 1992 to become the first Division I school to win back-to-back titles back then since UCLA achieved the feat starting in 1973. Without Laettner, Hill willed the Blue Devils to another national finals appearance, his third, in 1994 before running into a more game Arkansas Razorbacks.
To cap it off, Hill has a gold medal show being an integral part of the US team that shellacked the opposition in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Interestingly, there are no lives in the NBA that are more intertwined than Kidd and Hill.
They were both members of the 1994 NBA draft class with Kidd getting picked by the Mavs at No. 2 overall and Hill getting tabbed by the Detroit Pistons at No. 3 behind top overall pick Glen Robinson, who signed by the Milwaukee Bucks by an unprecedented 10-year, $68 million dollar contract that to this day stands as the richest and longest NBA contract for a rookie as the fixed salary cap for neophytes was implemented the year later because of Mad Dog. But that’s another story.
They’re both 40 years old. They retired the same year and just days apart. They are the few breeds who made it to the All-NBA First Team and All-Star and winning the Sportsmanship plum more than once. They’re both Future Hall of Famers. They will be missed on the court and remain in our hearts. We are fortunate witnesses of their greatness. And I hope Kidd and Hill will get to read this because I want to thank both for giving us something to cherish for the last 19 seasons. Have I also told you they’re Co-Rookie of the Year?
Reggie Miller gave them the best tribute: “The NBA will miss two of its biggest stars, Congrats to Grant Hill and Jason Kidd on wonderful HOF careers. Now welcome to the dark side, TV!”
So they will be around for sure. For now, let’s take a bow and say thank you Jason Kidd and Grant Hill for the memories.
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar
(Photos courtesy of Sports Illustrated)