Abraham Lincoln once said, "I am not concerned that you have fallen - I am concerned that you arise."
On July 11, 2007, Grant Henry Hill, coming off seven unfortunate and injury-riddled seasons with the Orlando Magic in which he had fallen time and again, signed with the Phoenix Suns as an unrestricted free agent. Over the course of the next five years, Grant won the hearts of Suns fans with his great play on the court and even greater behavior off it.
As a Sun, Grant Hill put behind him the injuries that had unfairly robbed him of a legendary career (though he will always remain a legend to many fans) and arose, reborn much like a Phoenix. Today, we celebrate the retirement of the brilliant player and even better individual with the top ten moments during Grant's tenure as a member of the Phoenix Suns:
Grant Hill made his regular season debut for the Suns on November 1, 2007 against the Seattle Supersonics (Kevin Durant's rookie year). He had the type of game fans would come to expect from him in following years: 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, perfectly complementing stars Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion. I couldn't find a video of his debut performance, but here are some highlights from that game:
In what is perfectly representative of Grant Hill's personality, he (along with fellow fan favorite Jared Dudley) participated in the following PSA advising fans to omit homophobic slurs from their trash-talking vocabulary. I'm guessing Roy Hibbert has never seen this before:
The 2008-2009 season was a disappointment for Phoenix, but it marked a remarkable achievement for Grant Hill. For the first time in his career, and at age 36, he played in every game of the regular season and reaped the benefits of the Phoenix Suns training staff with plays like this:
After enjoying back to back healthy seasons in Phoenix, Grant Hill received attention from several teams in the summer of 2009, when he was once again a free agent. The New York Knicks offered him more money and the championship-caliber Boston Celtics also offered him a contract. However, Grant returned to the Valley on a very cheap contract, displaying his loyalty and endearing himself to Suns fans even more. This would prove to be a smart move on both his and the Suns' parts, as the team had a very successful 2009-10 season in which it would get within 2 games of reaching the NBA finals.
In yet another example of the class, sophistication, and likability he exhibits, Grant Hill won the NBA's Sportsmanship Award in 2009-10, becoming the only player to ever win the award thrice (the first two coming during the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons). One of the reasons Grant is so beloved by Suns fans is that he seemingly always makes the right play both on and off the court, with the latter evidenced by the well-deserved recognition of his sportsmanship and philanthropy.
The 2009-10 season was the most successful one of Grant's entire career in Phoenix (and arguable the most successful of the whole Nash era). Much of the team's success can be credited to great chemistry both on and off the court, which Grant recently alluded to as one of the favorite parts of his 19 year career. While the team had lots of success, Grant also enjoyed some highlights of his own:
Because it's Kobe...is an explanation necessary?
The 2010-11 saw the Suns missing the playoffs after a season in which they reached game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. However, the team remained competitive right down to the stretch and produced many memorable games. On November 5, 2010, the Suns beat the Memphis Grizzlies in a very tight and entertaining game. The play of the game (which was reminiscent of a very famous pass made by Grant long, long before he was a Sun) occurred when Grant threw a perfect inbounds alley-oop pass to Jason Richardson, who laid it in with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime:
Although the 2010-11 season was disappointing for Suns fans, Grant's play did not disappoint. He averaged the highest points per game of any of his seasons in Phoenix (13.2 ppg) and continued his remarkable health, playing in 80 games. The highlight of his season was perhaps his brilliant performance in Indiana, when he scored a career Suns-high 34 points and hit a game-tying three pointer to send the game into OT (where Channing Frye would hit the first of his two game winners in back-to-back nights):
One of the things Grant Hill never achieved through his magnificent years in Detroit and because of his injury-plagued years in Orlando was a playoff series win. One would assume that much of the reason behind him joining the Suns as a free agent in 2007 (other than Phoenix's renowned training staff) had to have been the fact that they were a contender. However, the Suns would lose in the first round during Grant's first year and miss the playoffs altogether in 2009. Despite these failures, Grant remained loyal to his team and re-signed with them and ultimately helped guide them to a Western Conference Finals berth the following year.
In the 2009-10 season, Grant elevated his game to help the Suns by making the right plays on offense and defending up to four different positions on the other end of the floor. The Suns entered the playoffs as the 3rd seed in the West in 2010. They eventually defeated the Portland Trailblazers in six games, giving Grant the first playoff series victory of his career (making him the oldest player to do so). The Suns went on to sweep a familiar playoff rival, the San Antonio Spurs, in the second round but ultimately lost in the Western Conference Finals to another familiar foe, the LA Lakers. Despite this, the 2009-10 season was a success and it holds a special place in many fans' hearts. Grant's best highlight of that postseason came in the first series and is the epitome of the heart and determination he played with:
Congrats on a great career, Grant. I wish you could've retired in Phoenix, but I know you will always be a Sun for many of us fans (ok fine, Pistons fans can make their claim too). We hope you will come back to our franchise in some form or fashion but more importantly, we wish you the best in whatever you choose to do. Happy retirement, BAMF.
Now, if only that other former Sun in LA would just give up and call it a career...