Grant Hill is one of the greatest “what if” players in NBA history. He was quickly rising to superstar level before injuries derailed his career. Hill still had a hall of fame career but did not quite live up to expectations.
What happened to Grant Hill’s ankle? In 2000 Grant Hill sprained his ankle badly in a regular-season game and it got much worse due to him playing on it during the playoffs when he should have been resting. This ultimately led to his career being much less impactful than it may have been.
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In the 1990s, the NBA was dominated by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. As he was nearing his late 30s, fans were looking for the next version of Michael Jordan. Grant Hill began to stand out, having been drafted third overall in 1994 after two NCAA titles with Duke.
The reason for that is Hill was becoming one of the best all-around players for the Detroit Pistons. A brilliant scorer, Hill also contributed with assists and rebounds as he made four straight all-star appearances including in his rookie season where he won co-rookie of the year.
Grant Hill’s real breakout year was the 1999-2000 season, Hill became the undisputed leader of the team and he averaged 26 points per game as well as starting 74 games. Hill’s injury record had always been good, but this would change towards the end of his breakout season.
A week before the 2000 playoffs were due to start, Hill badly rolled his ankle against the Philadelphia 76ers. At the time, it did not seem bad as Hill continued to play after team doctors had told him that he only had a bone bruise and had not done any major damage to his ankle.
There were also some fans and even a few of the team doctors who believed that Hill was not really injured. As his contract was expiring just after the playoffs, some people saw it as Hill trying to protect himself in order to earn as big a paycheck as possible. The criticism was a big reason for him continuing to play.
As the playoffs started, the pain began to increase and in the middle of game two against the Miami Heat, Hill pulled himself out of the game as he simply could not play on through the pain. The Pistons would lose the series without Hill as he found out that the injury against the Sixers had actually been a broken ankle.
Despite the injury, Hill was still a well-sought-after free-agent target and he signed a huge deal with the Orlando Magic. But the ankle injury only got worse for Hill and it seems like he is continuing to play on it. The ankle needed more time to heal and Grant Hill did not rest properly.
It meant that he only played 18 games across his first two seasons in Orlando, having played 74 in his final season in Detroit. The injury just seemed to continue to keep Hill out as it would never heal properly. The ankle sprain and break was so severe that playing on it meant it could not heal properly.
After three seasons of barely playing in Orlando, Hill and the team agreed that a major surgical procedure could be the only way to fix the ankle. The surgery was designed to actually re-fracture his ankle so that it could be properly aligned with the leg bone and it would be able to heal properly.
The surgical procedure went well and Hill began recovering at home. But just five days after the surgery, he developed a fever and convulsions and was rushed back into hospital. When doctors removed the stint that had been put in his ankle, they found that Hill had contracted MRSA.
MRSA is a potentially fatal infection that is often contracted in hospitals. It is a type of bacteria that is resistant to common antibiotics. It is an incredibly dangerous issue that caused Hill to be hospitalised for a week. It was an incredibly scary time for Hill as he did not know whether he would make it through.
Thankfully, Hill was able to make it through but he was on strong antibiotics for the next six months as he was also recovering from the major surgery. Thankfully for Hill, the surgery seemed to work and Hill began to get healthy again. But the ankle injury would once again cause problems.
The injury being so severe meant that Hill adjusted how he ran to lessen the pressure on his ankle. The issue is that the uneven pressure caused him to get a sports hernia that forced Hill to go under the knife once again. It was another injury caused by playing through his ankle injury all the way back in 2000.
This surgery created some rumours that Hill might retire, but he finally got some treatment that worked well. In the 2006 offseason, Hill received ankle rotation therapy from specialists in Vancouver, Canada. This physical therapy worked brilliantly for him as Hill regained a lot of motion in his left ankle, the ankle that had derailed his career.
The incredible thing about Hill’s injury was that he turned into a reliable veteran as soon as he had the surgery and the proper physical therapy. Hill decided to join the Phoenix Suns in 2007 and it is incredible that he turned into such a dependable role player for the Suns.
In his five seasons with Phoenix, Hill only played less than 65 games in a season once. He even featured in 80 or more games in three straight seasons. Hill was able to basically have a second career with Phoenix as his ankle began to heal properly.
But Grant Hill still was not able to live up to his potential. His career was completely changed by a misdiagnosed sprained ankle that turned out to be a broken ankle. Playing through the injury had huge effects on his career and Hill was never the same player after what seemed like a minor ankle sprain.