Friday, January 14, 2005

More than a game

Tonight, the Palace of Auburn Hills hosted a feel-good story that will hopefully help to fumigate the stench of the infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers back in November. Grant Hill returned to the Palace as a healthy basketball player. What's the big deal?

Since leaving the Pistons for the Orlando Magic as a free agent in 2000, Grant Hill has fought a debilitating ankle injury that not only threatened his career as a professional basketball player, but maybe his ability to ever normally walk again, as well. He's attempted to play several times over the past five years, but his ankle kept giving out.

It's an injury he suffered, by the way, while trying like hell to get the Pistons into the playoffs. Detroit fans never seemed to fully embrace Hill, maybe because he was presented as a pre-packaged superstar - the presumed heir to Michael Jordan. And Detroiters like their pro athletes blue-collar (Steve Yzerman, Joe Dumars, Barry Sanders, Alan Trammell). That probably contributed to Hill leaving for Orlando. But being the good guy he is, Hill worked out a trade so Detroit wouldn't be left empty-handed. Ben Wallace, the current face of the Detroit Pistons, was part of the package of players from Orlando.

But I didn't realize Hill's ankle injury was fatally serious until reading a harrowing story in today's Detroit Free Press. A staph infection almost killed Hill. His "leg from the knee down was red and black," according to the article. And here's another gruesome image for you to contemplate: two and a half weeks after the infection, Hill's ankle had a hole in the skin. "[The doctor] cleared away some of the dead skin and basically, right there was my bone."

Detroit ended up beating Orlando tonight, by the score of 101-94. Being in Iowa now, I was nowhere near the game and couldn't even see it on TV. But I hope Grant Hill got a standing ovation from the crowd. He almost literally gave up his limb for the Pistons.

Here's more on Hill from Mitch Albom.