Grant Hill on growing up in Virginia, wishing he played for Wizards

Grant Hill on NoVa roots, wishing he played for Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Long before he became a household name, Grant Hill was a kid growing up in Fairfax County, a star at South Lakes High School in Reston, VA. It all started there, before he was a legend at Duke University, a 7-time NBA All-Star and 2018 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hill is one of the greatest athletes ever from the Washington, D.C. area and he details that entire journey in his new autobiography called ‘Game.’ It is an all-encompassing look at Hill’s remarkable life, including his formative years in Northern Virginia.

Hill, 49, recalls a vibrant sports scene in the D.C. area and specifically Reston, where he followed in the footsteps of others en route to basketball stardom.

“I grew up in Reston, and obviously was proud of that and I went to South Lakes High School. I was proud of the greater sort of D.C. metropolitan area, [we didn’t] call the DMV back then. But you know, there was a real sort of love and passion for sports. Obviously, the Redskins were huge and had some great years in the early 80s. Georgetown basketball, and Maryland basketball, were really big in the 80s as well. And then you just had some great athletes, particularly in basketball, coming of age during the 80s,” Hill told NBC Sports Washington.

“I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. I looked up to people who were right in Reston, Virginia; Michael Jackson, who played for South Lakes and then with Georgetown, Christy Winters [now Winters-Scott] who played at South Lakes and then with Maryland. [Also,] Dennis Scott, who was from Reston and went to Flint Hill and Georgia Tech.”

Hill found writing the autobiography an interesting and rewarding process, as it encouraged him to reflect on different points in his life with a renewed focus. He looked back at old pictures of his life and early career and dug deep to recall the details of those experiences.

Hill was always looking forward as a star athlete, trying to get better, trying to win the next game. He found a greater appreciation for his accomplishments with the benefit of hindsight. 

He just had to set aside his instinct for humility to do so.

“I think you get to a point in life where you kind of look back and you realize, wow, you’ve been fortunate to do a lot of incredible things. And, so to be able to document that, and really tell my story, tell the ups and the downs, the highs, the lows, and hopefully have that not just be informative, but also hopefully be inspiring,” he said.

“I know I enjoy reading about other people and reading autobiographies or biographies in general. And I always feel like I come away with something or I learn something, or as I said, I come away inspired. So, if I have an opportunity to do that with my story, then that would be great. So, it is a little bit of a vanity play, I think in some respects, but I think also to tell your story, there’s something freeing and liberating about doing that.”

There were a few questions that came up in Hill’s interview with NBC Sports Washington that did not relate directly to his book, but seem natural to ask given he is from the D.C. area. Like, for instance, did he ever come close to playing for the Wizards?

Hill said the closest he came was in the early 2000s when Michael Jordan was in charge of the Wizards’ front office. Jordan reached out to expres interest. It never materialized, but looking back, part of Hill wishes that he did play for the hometown team.

“I don’t think there was ever really any serious thought or conversations or consideration about going back home. And, you know, I kind of wish that I had done it. It would have been kind of fun to go back and play at home in front of friends and family, in my hometown, and I think a fan base that really loves sports and appreciates high-level sport, particularly basketball,” Hill said.

Hill’s polished media presence, intellect and seemingly universal popularity beg another question. Did he ever consider politics?

“Well, you’re universally liked until you run for office. Growing up in D.C., I always say that politics was like the next sport in that city, and was certainly the topic of conversation for everyone in the DMV. And I think I had aspirations or at least interest in the idea of that during that time, but so much in the world of politics has changed, and maybe not for the better, and to subject yourself and your family to what comes with that. I don’t know, for me, if it outweighs the potential to influence change, and affect the world. So, that’s not my calling. But there’s other ways to participate in the political process and I certainly try to do that,” he said.

Hill believes his new book will be interesting to those who followed his career and also those who aren’t sports fans. There’s something for everyone, he says.

For anyone who grew up in the D.C. area, there may be some relatable stories, besides the whole being a world-renowned basketball legend part, of course.

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