Welcome to Hill Country
A new team, a new home and a new baby. Life is going full speed for the Phoenix Suns' Grant Hill — and he's just enjoying the ride
BY JIMMY MAGAHERN
Published by: AZ, October 2007
Few men – not even powerful, 6-foot-eight, seven-time NBA All-Stars – could talk their wives into moving to Phoenix in the heat of the summer. Especially when said wife is a Canadian-born performer who, despite having toured much of the world, has somehow managed to steer clear of Phoenix’s famous triple-digit temps for all of her 32 years, and who, at the time the move was suggested, was about to give birth to the couple’s second child.
Then again, few men are Grant Hill, the former Orlando Magic forward the Phoenix Suns are banking on to take the team to from second to first in this season’s playoffs. In July, the Suns signed Hill to a one-year $1.8 million deal, with a player option for a second season at roughly $2 million. In August, Hill, 35, and his wife, R&B recording artist Tamia, signed off on another deal that – Suns fans hope – might signal the NBA star plans to stick around even longer: the purchase, in cash, of a $3,780,000 home in Paradise Valley.
Does Hill’s hefty contribution to the Valley’s real estate economy mean the high-scoring rebound king intends to finish out his playing years with the Suns and retire to the PV golf courses?
“Who knows?” Hill says, adding that he’s yet to be bit by the golfing bug and that the couple, married since 1999, still maintains a home in Orlando, Florida, where they’ve lived for the past seven years. “Tamia’s only been here for two or three weeks, and it’s her first time ever being in Phoenix. So we’re still getting adjusted. Right now,” he adds, calling from the new house in mid-September, “it’s hot!”
Signed to the Suns just ten days after becoming a free agent, and with Tamia entrenched in Orlando during the final weeks of pregnancy, Hill was forced to house-hunt largely on his own, and, by all accounts, found a beaut: a 6,786 square-foot custom home surrounded by lush trees just west of Camelback Mountain. According to the realtor and former owner of the home, Hill signed off on the sale just hours after the birth of little Lael Rose, who joined big sister Myla, 5, on August 9.
Understandably, the whirlwind of activity has given the family little time to settle in. Hill has heard some of his fellow Suns players also live nearby in the exclusive upscale community, but as yet, he hasn’t had many opportunities to meet the neighbors.
“A few of the guys have started to trickle in, but I don’t quite know where everybody lives yet,” he says of his teammates.
So far, the Hills have been busy personalizing the house, which came furnished sans a basketball hoop and – more importantly to Hill – without any of the cultural touchstones he’s accustomed to. Raised by a Yale man, former NFL running back Calvin Hill, and a Wellesley woman (mother Jane, who roomed with Hillary Rodham Clinton as a freshman at the liberal arts college), Hill grew up in a household where academics and an appreciation of the arts were stressed right along with athletics – a well-balanced view he hopes to impart to his own daughters, not to mention the millions of impressionable kids who admire his prowess on the court. In the past three years, Hill’s distinguished collection of African-American art has been the subject of a coffee-table book as well as a traveling exhibition.
“I’d like to inspire other people who maybe wouldn’t normally go into a museum or pick up a book of art,” he explains. “Sometimes people will look into things they normally wouldn’t because a professional athlete has expressed interest in it.”
Most of his personal collection, which features the work of such African-American masters as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, John Coleman and Hughie Lee-Smith, still remains on the walls of the Orlando house, and Hill – who majored in African-American history at Duke – admits it’s been tough finding any Scottsdale galleries that specialize in the field.
“Although I have been over to the Phoenician, and they have a really nice Native American collection,” Hill says, noting a particular fondness for Allan Houser’s bronze sculptures. “So who knows, maybe the focus of my collecting will change a little bit now that I’m here.”
As for how long that might be, Hill appears genuinely uncertain. Entering his 13th year in a remarkable pro career that, beginning with his bowing out of the 2000 Summer Olympics due to a badly sprained ankle, has been notoriously hampered by injuries, Hill is determined to stay healthy and strong for the Suns.
“I fought hard to get back on the court, so I’m going to give the team everything I’ve got,” he promises.
Whether his team at home – Hill dips into jargon like “assists” and “teamwork” while referring to the sitters and family members who’ve been aiding with the diapers and feedings – will be able to survive that other Phoenix sun is another matter.
“We may end up staying. We like it here thus far. But we’ll wait and see what happens,” Hill says.
“One thing I’ve learned,” he adds, with a knowing laugh, “is not to predict the future.”