On Nov. 4, 1994, Grant Hill made his regular-season debut with the Detroit Pistons, scoring 25 points with 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. And somewhat symbolically, the Pistons wasted his brilliance, losing the season opener 115-98 to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.
As was the case for the majority of Hill's six years in Detroit, his supporting cast wasn't anywhere close to matching his talent -- check out Detroit's box score from 19 years ago for proof:
I've already tried to put Hill's career in perspective on the heels of his retirement announcement in June -- please go read that, it's one of the favorite things I've written in years -- so I won't try to repeat it here.
I also won't try to pretend remembering a single minute from this regular-season debut, even though I had partial-season ticket package that year and I'm quite sure I was at the game.
Instead, I'll share my first memory of seeing Hill in action in the preseason opener a couple of weeks earlier. I can't tell you the date, and I can't tell you the opponent, and I certainly can't embed a box score from that game -- official records for NBA preseason games in 1994 have proven to be beyond my Internet-sleuthing skills.
But I vividly recall the Pistons winning the opening tip and Joe Dumars bringing the ball up the court, where he quickly caught the opposition by surprise by finding Hill streaking to the basket for an alley-oop.
Even though Dumars played several more years (and two more All-Star games), it was a poetic passing of the torch, no more than 10 seconds into Hill's first game. The old school, grind it out Detroit Bad Boys were officially a thing of the past, replaced by this flashy, amazing, all-world athlete who'd make your jaw drop one minute and sell you a bottle of Sprite the next.
Your lasting memories of Hill's time in Detroit are likely colored by how old you were when he played here. The old guard -- including a lot of folks still writing newspaper columns and hosting talk radio shows -- often unfairly judge Hill by the success of the athletes that preceded him.
But there's an entire generation of basketball fans in Detroit who learned to love the game while Hill was in his prime, who will forever remember Hill as one of the most complete players ever to take the court. I'm fortunate that my fandom spans both generations, and that I can fully appreciate Hill's place among Detroit's all-time greatest athletes.