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Grant Hill ... Behind the Sun


ONCE A SUPERSTAR with Detroit, Grant Hill went to Orlando seven years ago, and his Magical career was badly compromised by five separate surgeries on his left ankle. One, in 2003, nearly killed Hill after a staph infection sent his temperature above 104°. Now, at 35, the 6'8", 225-pound forward starts anew in Phoenix. Hill would seem to have it all: a $3.78 million house; a stunning wife, Tamia (the R&B star); and daughters Myla, 5, and Lael, an infant. But he's missing something: a ring.

On accepting less money from the Suns—two years, $3.8 million—than he could have gotten elsewhere
If I had a list of 10 things I was looking for, Phoenix checked out on nine. I liked that they hadn't quite won yet, and I can contribute to that. I liked [Mike D'Antoni's] coaching style—I like to run—and I liked the idea of playing with Steve Nash. The money issue was the one that didn't check out, but I wanted to go somewhere and win.

On how he has changed since he entered the NBA in 1994
When I was young, it was all one pace, attacking. I wanted to dunk on everybody—that SportsCenter culture we've been brought up in. Now I understand it's about playing the angles. I'm more efficient.

His surgery-scarred ankle
At first I would cover it up—wear socks over it. Now it's my battle scar. Guys on other teams look at it and are, like, ugh. They don't think I can still play. I use that to my advantage.

On whether his injuries ever made him weigh retirement
After I got the staph infection, it went through my mind—it scared me. But even in the recovery room I was watching Syracuse beat Kansas in the Final Four. Once you retire, there's no going back. I have a father who played sports professionally, and I saw him go through that. Once it's done, it's done.

On his parents, Calvin, a former Cowboys running back, and Janet, a corporate consultant
Mom was the bad cop, Dad was the good cop. My friends called my mom the General. She didn't play. It was like World War III if I lost the key to the house. If I came home from school and something had happened with a teacher, my mom knew it: She was PTA president. My parents were involved. They knew my friends, and I had to tell them where I went and give them a phone number. Now that I have perspective on it, I appreciate it. I'm going to be that sort of parent.

Tamia's battle with multiple sclerosis
She found out in '03, right when I came off my staph infection. We were in the Caribbean, and she was having pins and needles in her feet and hands. On the way home it was so bad she couldn't fill out an immigration card. Now she's doing great. I sometimes forget because it's not something that shows.

On his postbasketball aspirations
Maybe politics. I grew up near D.C., and dinner conversations between my parents and their friends always involved current events and political debates. This summer I cohosted a fund-raiser for Senator Obama. That was tough because my mom is friends with Hillary Clinton—they were suitemates [at Wellesley]. But I delivered a five-minute introduction for him. Then he said, "We've got to get that boy in politics."