Grant Hill’s NYT Response: Fab Five Documentary “A Sad And Somewhat Pathetic Turn Of Events”
The sports world eagerly awaited Grant Hill's New York Times op-ed in response to comments made about him, and Duke basketball in general, in ESPN's Fab Five documentary. Earlier this afternoon, it - or part of it, anyway - was released. Hill lived up to the hype.
First things first: Hill said that the NYT had to cut his piece down "due to space consideration," so his entire, unedited response is posted on his website. One notable omission in the NYT version is Hill's response to Jimmy King, noted especially by SPORTSbyBROOKS before the column's publication.
Also, we should say we don't quite agree with everything Hill says. For example, he seems to act as though the most provocative thoughts Jalen Rose expressed in the documentary - most notably, the "Uncle Toms" remark and describing having a resentment for Hill because he came from a stable, accomplished family - are still his opinions today. This, even as Hill allows in his column, "I am aware Jalen has gone to some length to explain his remarks about my family in numerous interviews, so I believe he has some admiration for them."
Additionally, while Hill says that Rose "leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today," Rose has indeed gone on to try to express what he thinks about Duke's recruiting practices now...specifically, that the school "recruits a certain type of player," but that he understands why. So while we wouldn't say Rose ever offered up a ringing endorsement of the Duke Way, we also wouldn't say he's trying to leave anyone in the dark about his feelings.
But these issues don't overshadow that this is a lucid, well-done response on Hill's part. It's strongly worded - he calls some of the comments from the documentary "a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events" - and he also provides the interesting anecdote that Rose actually sent him an apology, via Twitter, before the film premiered.
And even if we don't quite agree with everything Hill says, we certainly understand why he'd have a strong reaction to the documentary - after all, he was, as he says, called "a bitch." And - again, even if the Fab Five players don't feel any animosity today - we especially understand why Hill would feel compelled to come to his family's defense. He does so in stirring fashion:
I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale.
This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him.
That last line is important, too - Hill doesn't just criticize the Fab Five. He calls himself "a fan, friend, and longtime competitor of' the group, and says that "[t]heir journey from youthful icons to successful men today is a road map for so many young, black men (and women)." But ultimately, despite that admiration, this column serves mainly as a chance for Hill to fight back. And that's why the two last paragraphs of Hill's response are also the two best. The NYT cut them down a bit, so here's the full version of his parting shots:
I caution my fabulous five friends to avoid stereotyping me and others they do not know in much the same way so many people stereotyped you back then for your appearance and swagger. I wish for you the restoration of the bond that made you friends, brothers and icons. I hope you reach closure with your university so you will enjoy all the privileges of its greatness.
I try to live my life as a good husband and father. I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.
That is a well-executed burn, and we hope Hill's "fabulous five friends" share their reactions to it.
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