Former Pistons great Grant Hill retires after 19 years in NBA

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Grant Hill, whose finest seasons were spent wearing Pistons teal, officially announced his retirement on Saturday, walking away on his terms after nearly two decades.

"I'm glad to say that I'm done," Grant Hill revealed Saturday night before Game 6 of the Pacers-Heat series. "I've officially retired, moving on from playing. I've had a great run."

Like most nights on "Inside the NBA," Shaq briefly hijacked the moment to get the camera's attention, but Hill eventually continued.

"I've been hinting at it for the last few years and you get to a point where you just don't want to do it anymore. But I've enjoyed it, I've loved it," he said.

Hill spent the first -- and without question, the best -- six years of his career with the Pistons. From the moment he was drafted with the No. 3 pick in 1994, he was one of the league's premier players, as well as one of the most popular.

While many athletes in Detroit toil in obscurity, Hill brought the spotlight with him. After winning two national championships and appearing in a third national title game at Duke, he was already a star when he arrived. He became the first rookie in any major sport to lead his league in All-Star voting, and he did it again his second year. He played piano on Letterman. He had national commercials for Fila, Sprite and McDonalds. He was everywhere.

But seriously, watch that Letterman video. Everyone remembers the piano bit, but the entire interview is gold -- he was as comfortable and charismatic in front of the camera 18 games into his NBA career as he was announcing his retirement 19 years later. Hill always seemed cool and polished and comfortable in his role as one of the finest athletes the game has ever seen.

And then he left.

At first, that angered Pistons fans, but I suspect that most have forgiven him after all these years. And why not? He literally arrived to the Orlando Magic on crutches after fracturing his ankle during a playoff game with Detroit. He appeared in just 47 games combined his first four years with the Magic with complications from that injury.

The Pistons, meanwhile, set about building a championship-caliber team around Ben Wallace, obtained in the very sign-and-trade that sent Hill south. While Hill was recovering from a staph injection that nearly killed him in 2003, the Pistons were playing in the first of six consecutive Eastern Conference finals. When Hill was forced to miss the entire 2003-04 season, the Pistons won it all. Things worked out OK for Detroit.

And despite losing the prime of his career and a touch of the unworldly athleticism that set him apart in a league of unworldly athletes, things worked out OK for Hill, too. He bounced back toward the end of his time with the Magic before becoming a shocking model of durability with the Suns, with whom he played at least 80 games three times. He played until he was 40 years old, and he could certainly go longer if he wanted.

Instead, he's going out on his terms. And while that's sad in some respects, I'm guessing it'll turn into a blessing for his fans, who hopefully will have the chance to enjoy watching Hill talk about basketball on ESPN or TNT or maybe even the upstart Fox Sports 1 before he makes his inevitable move into an NBA front office -- and perhaps someday, an owner's suite. Hill is done playing, but his impact on the game is just getting started.

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