July 22, 2013 BY Aaron Kr. / 12
There’s definitely some truth to the “nice guys finish last” cliche, but in the world of sports, there are some clear exceptions to the rule. Following a rocky stretch of selfish superstars and more villains than heroes, the NBA once again has some humble, likeable young stars who make it easy to want to root for them. Amidst a sea of boisterous, edgier personalities, players like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose have let their games speak for themselves, dominating their sport with a quiet confidence and modesty that has effortlessly endeared themselves to fans. Long before those guys came along, another NBA player was setting the contemporary standard for the “good guy” NBA superstar.
As the third pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, Grant Hill entered the league with an already impressive resume under his belt. He was a recent college graduate and four-year starter at Duke University, where he helped the team to two national championships in 1991 and 1992. Hill collected two NCAA All-American honors along the way and came into the league an accomplished leader and winner, with a confident maturity that pointed to an easy transition into the pros. It didn’t take long into his rookie year before it was evident that Grant Hill was a star, but while his on-court performance was easy to predict, his impact as an endorser would prove to shoot off the charts.
It was a bit of a shock that it was Fila who made the strongest move to sign Hill out of college. At the time, Fila had started to make a bigger push into the performance basketball market, but had yet to prove themselves as a formidable threat against Nike, Reebok, and the other major players at the time. They made a bold move and their aggressiveness in snatching up Grant Hill changed everything in a matter of months, as the signing began to pay for
itself right out of the gate with the huge public demand for his first signature shoe. The Grant Hill 1 instantly made Fila a strong competitor in the basketball category. Hill was an immediate favorite with NBA fans, and it translated right over to a shoe that was wildly popular with consumers. In many ways, Grant Hill’s presence legitimized the brand as a basketball force, and the appetite for his shoes quickly permeated over to an exploding demand for Fila’s other offerings from the b-ball category and beyond.
Hill helped carry the mid-90s Fila Basketball boom as far as he could, but sadly a series of unfortunate injuries derailed his eventual legacy on the court. Miraculously though, Hill was able to fight through it all, playing 19 seasons in the NBA before announcing his retirement this past June after a one-year run with the Clippers. It’s tough to speculate on what could have been had those injuries not slowed him down during his prime years, but soon Fila will be bringing back, not only his first signature model, the Grant Hill 1, but also a wave of nostalgia that conjures memories of Hill’s first year of electrifying the NBA hardwood.
In honor of the upcoming retro release, SN Select is taking a look back at the history of the shoe and its impact on the sneaker game, as well as a refresher course on one of the more impressive rookie seasons in league history. During his early years with the Pistons and Fila, Grant Hill was proof that people still wanted to root for the good guy, and now that the torch has been passed to a new generation of admirable young NBA stars, it’s fitting to pay tribute to a guy that taught them that it can actually be cool (and profitable) to be a class act.