On the court, Grant Hill is respected for the dedication, experience and sportsmanship he brings to his role as a veteran small forward for the Phoenix Suns. But when Hill steps off the court, he is simply known as dad to daughters Myla, 6, and Lael, 8 months. He shares his earliest basketball memories and talks about the challenges and joys fatherhood brings him every day.
Do you remember the first time you touched a basketball?
I grew up with there always being some sort of ball — kickball, football, baseball — around the house. I remember being 4 years old and going to the playground and park with my dad [his father, Calvin Hill, was a running back for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys] and watching him play and sort of being off to the side and grabbing a ball and trying to copy what he was doing.
When did you know you were really good and you could make it in the sport?
It got to the point where I was pretty serious in high school and started to get recruited heavily by a lot of different schools. I went to Duke, but even then I was unsure if I was good enough to make it to the NBA. After a few of years of college I realized, “Wow. I have a chance to realize a dream and play with the best basketball players in the world.” I was probably a late bloomer in terms of my own self-belief.
How do you have time to spend with your daughters when you are traveling so much?
It is tough. I have lived the life of a child of a professional athlete and I understand the sacrifices that are made. When I am home I try to spend as much time as I can with them. I know that 10, 15, 20 years from now, when they are out of the house, I’ll think back and remember those times. I spend time with the girls because you can’t get that back.
What are some of the specific activities you do with your girls when you are home?
With my 8-month-old, Lael, it is just getting on the floor with her, playing with her toys and watching “Baby Einstein.” She is a very social baby, very active, and can’t sit still, so it’s continuous management with her. With my 6-year-old, Myla, we will go out together to Dave and Buster’s or to the movies. I’m even learning about the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana from Myla!
What does your family do for Father’s Day?
They usually take me to dinner. Myla is very into arts and crafts, so she usually makes me something. One year she took a handprint and wrote her name and then made this little booklet with her picture on one side and her handprint on the other. Things like that are the things that you cherish. The dinner that we go to is someplace that Myla wants to go to like Chuck E. Cheese or McDonald’s [laughs]. So, I don’t know if it’s Father’s Day or if it’s daughter’s day, but we have fun regardless.
What was it like for your girls and your wife, [R&B singer] Tamia, to be uprooted from Orlando to move to Phoenix?
When we moved out to Phoenix, Lael was only 10 days old. Tamia had never been to Phoenix, but she has been pleasantly surprised. She is very happy with being here in the Valley and being associated with a great team. It has all the things that a larger city has to offer, but still has that small city feel. Myla had some reservations because she had her friends in Orlando and that was all that she knew. But we couldn’t have picked a better place to be. We’ve loved it, and now Myla doesn’t want to go back!
What is your favorite family vacation?
Martha’s Vineyard. We go up there for a couple of weeks every summer.
What are you planning on doing with your girls this summer?
Maybe this year we’ll go to Cabo San Lucas or something like that now that we are closer to the West coast. We want to travel though, and those times we go on vacation are precious times that we take pictures, make albums and make a lot of great memories.
Do you ever get tired of answering questions?
No, not really. As you can see, I am long-winded so I like to talk!
This podcast was produced June 1, 2008 by multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint. The interview was conducted by Jennifer Stephens, of Phoenix, then a recent graduate of the Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.