Weird things begin happening when one watches more classic NBA All-Star games than should ever be necessary in a given lifespan.
I can’t really explain my fascination but for some reason, if the Pistons have a day off and I’m looking for something to watch over dinner, I strangely find myself frequently returning to archived mid-season basketball exhibitions from the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
It was this admittedly disconcerting habit that led me to a sudden realization last week. I mean, in the scheme of things, I don’t know what this even means, or if it means anything at all. But not only did Grant Hill make his seventh All-Star appearance in 2005 despite grinding through at least five potentially debilitating ankle surgeries and a brush with death following a MRSA infection in 2003, but he was still capable of pulling off the same exact above-the-rim theatrics he was executing as a 22-year-old Pistons rookie in 1995:
Granted (pun intended), I suppose there’s a couple of minuscule differences between the two plays, but not enough to make this not kind of weird. For one, Joe Dumars’ lob was so perfect that Hill had to do little more than jump and re-direct. Dwyane Wade’s pass, on the other hand, was ever so slightly behind its intended target, forcing Hill to reach back then follow through with a little more funk and authority (hence the rim breaking away in 2005).
Aside from that, the parallels are downright alarming. Both plays came in the second quarter with the East moving right to left. Both featured a delivery from beyond the left wing. Both have a retreating international center looking on helplessly as the lob sails over head. And both include Grant Hill jumping off of one foot at almost the same exact location before flushing home with two hands.
I don’t know. Maybe for a guy like Shaquille O’Neal, who lived a pretty steady and consistent NBA life, this wouldn’t be as big of a deal. But for Grant Hill, this shook me up a little. In ’95, we’re talking about a young rook who led all NBA players in All-Star votes (1,289,585). Three months later, he’d be named Co-Rookie of the Year and appeared destined for a Hall of Fame career.
Of course, everything had changed by 2005, and maybe that’s just it. After moving on from the Pistons in 2000, Hill had played in just 47 games between the turn of the century and the 2004-05 season. So to see Hill back out there in ’05, averaging 19.7 points per game, dunking like old times, knowing he’d end up playing until he was 40, it’s kind of a big deal.
Or maybe I just need to chill out on the All-Star games a little.