In a span of two days, the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year co-winners announced their retirement. For ’90s basketball fans, there were few players more complete, dynamic and fun to watch than Grant Hill and Jason Kidd. So now is as good a time as any to take a look back on the top 10 moments of each of their careers in light of the departure of two future Hall of Famers (I’ve already written about why Grant Hill deserves a spot in the HOF).
10. Grant Hill crosses Michael Jordan over – People know Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time, but a lot of people forget how good MJ was on the defensive end of the ball. In this regular season game, Grant Hill did not care. He didn’t score or throw one down on anybody, but this crossover is too good to not include.
9. Grant Hill dunks on Joakim Noah – We’ll get to the juicy Grant Hill posterizations and highlights in a minute, but I had to include this dunk separately. Why? Because if there were ever a moment that speaks to the longevity of Grant Hill’s career (and evokes that constant “what if?” factor), it was his dunk on Joakim Noah in 2009 with the Phoenix Suns. At the age of 36, Hill threw down on one Noah, who would become a defensive anchor for the Bulls. The fact that a 36-year-old was still throwing down like this is a testament to how great he could have been in his prime if only for those darn ankles.
8. Block on Jerryd Bayless – Kind of similar to the Joakim Noah play in that this memorable moment features a way-past-his-prime Hill making a spectacular play on one of the league’s younger players, but this one emphasizes the terrific defender he was and remained throughout his career. This hardly demonstrates the lock-down defense Hill was capable of playing in his prime, but come on. Hill went Dikembe Mutombo on poor Jerryd Bayless:
7. Olympic gold medal – In the 1996 Summer Olympics, Grant Hill was a big part of the United States’ gold-medal basketball team. He led the team in steals and had the team’s fifth-highest scoring average, which is pretty impressive considering he had only played two full NBA seasons at that point and played with the likes of Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, David Robinson, John Stockton and Anfernee Hardaway.
6. Return season - After missing the entire 2003-04 season with the Orlando Magic (and nearly dying for the game he loves in the process), Hill was able to return healthy for the season and quickly reminded fans of his greatness. In his first month back on the court, he averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. In his eighth game back, Hill dropped a 32-5-5 statline in a victory over the Utah Jazz, which immediately signaled that he was healthy again. It wouldn’t last, but the fact that doctors told him he might want to consider retiring makes this a great feat.
5. Finally winning a playoff series – Hill was drafted into the NBA in 1994, but he never won a playoff series until 2010. Poor guy. After dealing with inferior teammates for most of his career and nagging injuries for the majority of his time in the NBA, Hill finally won his first playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, even admitting to being slightly embarrassed by that fact. But the fact remains: A guy who could have been an all-time great was not shut out for his entire career in the postseason. Even though he never won a ring, that 2010 playoff run must have been nice for a guy who had to wait until the tail end of his career to know what winning in the playoffs felt like.
4. Buckle-up Dunk – It’s hard to describe this dunk. You really just have to watch it and marvel at how high Hill gets, how he twists and contorts his body mid-air and how emphatically he throws it down all things considered. The “Buckle up!” this dunk evokes from the commentator just makes it that much better. Yet another example of the fact that if you got in his way, Grant Hill would dunk on you. And if you stayed out of his way, he’d definitely throw it down.
3. Triple-double vs. Chicago Bulls in 1997 – People forget this, but in Jordan’s first full season back in the league, Grant Hill actually earned more All-Star votes than the NBA’s best player. And whenever Hill matched up with Jordan’s dynastic Bulls, he almost always brought his A-game to try and elevate his weaker team to victory. Obviously the Bulls were the better team and proved it by going 9-2 against the Pistons with Hill on the floor during Jordan’s last three years in Chicago, but for one regular-season game against Chicago in April 1997, Hill dropped a triple-double on Scottie Pippen and company to give his Pistons a 17-point win. It marked Hill’s first victory over Jordan, but people should remember just how impossible to stop he was, averaging 23 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 47 percent shooting in those 11 meetings against one of the most dominant defensive teams in the league.
2. Triple-double against Los Angeles Lakers in double OT in 1997 – A few months earlier, in January 1997, Grant Hill played one of the most phenomenal games of his career, racking up an impressive triple-double in double overtime with 34 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists while shooting 52 percent from the floor. Those numbers included a desperation 3-pointer to send it to overtime (8:40 mark of the video below), an incredible move on Shaquille O’Neal and a terrific assist to a wide-open Otis Thorpe to clinch it (13:40). In fact, nearly all of Thorpe’s 22 points in that game came off of pick-and-rolls with Hill, who would smartly zip it through to defense to Thorpe for a wide open dunk.
1. Posterizations – We can’t talk about Grant Hill without mentioning a few things. He was the first and only player since Larry Bird to average 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists per game in a season. He was the LeBron James of the league before there was a LeBron James, running the “point forward” position that made him hard to guard and match up with. The amount of triple-doubles he racked up in his first six seasons was enough to get him in the top 10 of the all-time triple-double leaders list. Oh, and one last thing: He posterized just about everybody. Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Scottie Pippen, you name it. If you watch one and only one video on this page…let it be this one:
10. Game-winner vs. Brooklyn Nets – Maybe it won’t leave a lasting impression on his overall career, especially considering the way his last playoff series went, but this was a magnificent shot from Jason Kidd that earned New York a win against their new rival, the Brooklyn Nets. So what if he kicked his leg out and illegally drew the foul? Do you know how hard that shot is? The fact that it was a game-winner and a four-point play earns it a spot on the list to remind people that although Kidd wasn’t the greatest shooter, he drastically improved his 3-point shooting over the course of his career.
9. Olympic gold medal (twice) – Kidd was a part of two Olympic gold-medal teams, winning in 2000 and 2008. One was in his prime and one was far past it, but Kidd played an integral part on both teams as a player and mentor to the younger players.
8. Leading the NBA in assists (three consecutive times) – From 1999-2001, Jason Kidd led the entire NBA in assists. It was a much-needed boost for the Suns, as fans marveled at his incredible passing skills.
7. Incredible dimes – Jason Kidd was one of the league’s greatest rebounding point guards, but he also deserves credit as one of its greatest passers as well. His imagination and incredible ability to find open players on the fast break was nearly unparalleled. He nearly had a sixth sense and his mid-air passing was just spellbinding.
6. Game-winner vs. Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of 2003 Eastern Conference Finals – The degree of difficulty of this shot is incredible. The amount that’s on the line here is impressive. The fact that he was double-teamed and still managed to not only get the shot off, but drain it, is even more awesome. Then consider that this game was on the road and you have one of the most impressive game-winners in Nets’ postseason history. The Nets went on to the NBA Finals after beating the Pistons in this Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell to Tim Duncan‘s San Antonio Spurs. But nobody can take this one away from Kidd.
5. Triple-doubles – It’s not an unknown fact that Jason Kidd was one of the league’s premier triple-double talents. What Grant Hill achieved in his six years in Detroit with triple-doubles was impressive, but Kidd led the league in this category as a rookie! He is third on the list of all-time triple-double leaders with an astonishing 107. He is second only to Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson in that department and has racked up 11 playoff triple-doubles (which is second only to Magic Johnson’s untouchable 30). Just sit back and enjoy one of many highlight reels of Jason Kidd putting up his first triple-double:
4. Shared triple-double with Vince Carter – On April 7, 2007, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter made history, becoming the second set of teammates since Jordan and Pippen in 1989 to rack up triple-doubles in the same game. There’s really not much you can do when Kidd posts a ridiculous statline, but when Carter does it too, teams were in trouble. This video below isn’t that game, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of numbers these two were capable of cranking out:
3. Making history – On Nov. 26, 2009, Jason Kidd passed Mark Jackson for the second spot on the list of all-time assist leaders. In his career, J-Kidd racked up a staggering 12,091 assists, second only to the untouchable John Stockton (15,806). Kidd also passed up Michael Jordan on the list of all-time leaders in steals on Feb. 20, 2012, with 2,515. Kidd finished with 2,684 in his career, also second to Stockton.
2. Leading the Nets to the NBA Finals twice – Jason Kidd made all of his teams better. This is just a fact. In his first season in the NBA, Kidd led the league in triple-doubles as the Dallas Mavericks improved their win total by 23 from the prior season. In his first season in Phoenix, the Suns won 16 more games than the year before. And in his first season with New Jersey, the Nets won a staggering 26 more games than they did before he arrived, helping them to their first 50-win season in franchise history. In fact, he led that young team to the NBA Finals in his first season there, but they were swept by Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers. Still, there’s no denying that those two championship appearances never happen without J-Kidd.
1. Winning a championship in Dallas - Kidd finally climbed the mountain and won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks over the heavily favored Miami Heat in 2011. He was only a role player, but his defense, playmaking ability and 3-point shooting were crucial for the underdog Mavs. No one can deny that after such a prolific NBA career, it was about time.