Character, some say, is what you do when no one is watching. But in the NBA that isn’t quite right, is it? We put the athletes on our favorite teams on pedestals and expect them to be perfect, both on the court and off. Perhaps more egregiously, we sometimes condone the sins of our “role models” because of their performance on the field of play. We stretch the bounds of what character means because we don’t want to have to believe our heroes are less than perfect. That the people we cheer for are somehow tainted.
Of course occasionally those players live up to these impossibly high standards. One of them, I would submit, is Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill.
Grant Hill is known throughout the NBA as a class act, through and through. He is the only three time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award and during his prime Hill was also a player of transcendent talent, perhaps an all-time great. Unfortunately Hill was robbed of the opportunity to maximize his potential by the whim of fate and the fluke of injury. Yet what defines Grant Hill to me isn’t his failures to live up to the hype, it’s the way that he dealt with adversity in his career. When things stopped going his way, when the chips were down, when the fairy tale career started feeling like a nightmare, how did he respond?
Next Page: Going Down Hill