Whether you compete in the pros or just run pickup on the weekends, your age is not the only factor to consider when it comes to sports. While age and genetics do play a role, it doesn’t mean you have to give up the sport you love or stop getting paid to play. The concept of “Going out on top” is overrated if you truly love the game enough to play until the wheels fall off.
Take Chipper Jones. The Atlanta Braves future Hall of Fame third baseman is 38 years old, coming off a major knee surgery, and plans on returning to play Major League Baseball next season. The same can be said for Kevin Garnett, arguably the greatest defensive leader of the post-Bill Russell era, who came back from major knee surgery at the age of 34 just to be able to help lead his team to another championship.
Which brings me to Grant Hill, who turned 38 today. In an interview with the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Suns’ small forward stated that being a certain age doesn’t hold him back from his game:
“I know I’m 38 chronologically, but I don’t feel it,” Hill said. “I don’t buy into the fact that I’m a certain age and supposed to be doing certain things. I feel great.”
Long ago, Hill was once dubbed the next Michael Jordan until he had an appendage filled with metal stuffed into his ankle and a giant “What if?” hanging over his career after he nearly died from a post-surgery infection. Hill was on the cusp of becoming one of the great players in NBA history, nabbing co-Rookie of the Year alongside Jason Kidd and being named an NBA All-Star seven times. But during his days in (and mostly out of) an Orlando Magic uniform, Hill only managed to play in 200 games in seven years, an average of 28.5 games per year, which in turn led many to believe his career was basically over.
But over the last four years in Phoenix, he has bounced back and become a solid starter on a playoff team. With the Suns he has averaged 12.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while playing in 233 of a possible 246 regular-season games. Because he missed so much time with the injuries earlier in his career, Hill’s legs haven’t acquired as much mileage, making him a “young” 38 years old.
“I really do feel young,” said Hill, who has been nicknamed “Benjamin Button” by Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry‘s daughter. “I feel like people have been waiting for me to slow down. I don’t feel like I’m slowing down at all. I enjoy the game and competing. I enjoy the brotherhood. I enjoy that I can still do it, be competitive and get the better of matchups at times to help this team.”
During the offseason, Hill exercised a one-year player option to play in what might be his last go-round beneath the Arizona sun. So, is age really just a number? Some might say yes and some might say no, but until then, let’s at least enjoy watching Grant Hill overcome what was said to be the impossible.