Michael Jeffrey Jordan was known for his elite play on both ends of the floor. He’s universally recognized as the best to ever lace them up, and arguably the biggest global brand we’ve ever seen as it pertains to an athlete.
Behind all the winning and accolades was some legendary jabber that spewed from his mouth in pickup games. So, you can only imagine the things he’d say in NBA games.
Team USA Men’s Basketball managing director and Basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill recently recounted guarding MJ as the 1992 Olympic Dream Team prepped for Barcelona.
Grant Hill on Michael Jordan (1996) pic.twitter.com/CUedfOCBYL
— 90s NBA (@NBA90s) March 20, 2022
“I guarded Michael. It’s funny. The first time I come out, and I’m trying to deny him the ball, and Michael says, ‘Duke, I can the get the ball whenever I want and do whatever I want with it.’ He was probably right.”
It probably didn’t help that Jordan was a North Carolina legend and Hill a Duke legend, considering the vitriol between the two powerhouse “tobacco road” basketball programs. So, there was definitely extra added incentive for MJ to let the young Hill know.
While MJ was working on the first of two three-peats he was also focused on winning the gold medal in Barcelona. Legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski reportedly wanted to test his two-time defending national champion against the best players in the world.
Hill and a group of other talented college players, including Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn, actually upset the Dream Team in a simulated scrimmage.
Grant Hill Was On A Legendary Trajectory Before Injuries
Hill, the son of former NFL running back Calvin Hill, was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1972, while his dad was a member of the Cowboys. The family moved to Reston, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C., in 1976, when Calvin Hill signed with Cowboys archrival: the Washington Redskins.
Hill grew into a special player at nearby South Lakes High School. While Hill had offers from nearby Georgetown and North Carolina, he felt Duke was the place for him to continue his basketball career.
The aforementioned titles in his freshman and sophomore seasons were followed up by another trip to the title game his senior year, losing to the Nolan Richardson, Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman-led Arkansas Razorbacks and their “40 Minutes Of Hell” pressure.
Hill averaged 14.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game over his four-year run in Durham. The team went 118-23 during that time frame.
Pistons Take Hill Third Overall:
The Detroit Pistons, looking to rebuild after the Isiah Thomas-led “Bad Boys” days, took the Dukes star with the third overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft.
Hill would go on to be named Co-Rookie of the Year with Jason Kidd, but folks wanted him to be the “Next Jordan.” With MJ retired, Hill was arguably the league’s most popular player as a rookie, even receiving the most votes for the 1995 NBA All-Star Game.
In an interview with Bob Costas, Hill cleared up the talk.
“So much has been made in my rookie season about the comparison between us, but we have different games, and we different people. If I’m ruthless enough, it remains to be seen.”
Hill was much closer to Magic Johnson because of his passing acumen and willingness to get others involved. MJ was a born “killa.” Injuries began to derail the former “Dukie” in 2000-2001, and while he would still go on to play 18 seasons, his story is still arguably the the biggest “what if” in league history.