Turner Sports broadcaster Grant Hill chatted with SI.com about his favorite March Madness memories, how he calls close games and more.
Grant Hill is certainly no stranger to March.
The Turner Sports broadcaster, who will call the national championship game for the second year in a row, was a two-time NCAA champion at Duke, and one half of one of the most famous plays in NCAA history, helping Christian Laettner drain “The Shot.”
Hill has kept himself busy since retiring from a 19-year NBA career in 2013. In addition to his work on the college game, he’s an analyst for NBA TV, and most recently, Hill partnered with Buffalo Wild Wings for their “Busted” campaign. The series features sports superfans getting busted for their fandom at work, only to be rewarded with a sports surprise.
On behalf of B-Dubs, Hill chatted with SI.com, telling us about his March Madness memories, this year’s tournament, and more.
Sports Illustrated: Is it a nostalgic experience for you to cover the tournament after all your success as a player? What’s it like to broadcast the games?
Grant Hill: It's great. I played in the NBA for 19 years, I watched the tournament, but you were still in the middle of the grueling NBA season. You’d watch some games, you’d watch the Final Four, but you weren’t really in it, you weren’t really living it. And now, to really reconnect with the college game, the college game is where I fell in love with basketball, being an avid college basketball fan back in the ‘80s. Meeting the players, being at the practices, being a part of the broadcast team and interviewing players in private, you spend time with them, it takes you back. It conjures up memories of great moments. Between the first week and the second week, when I was supposed to be preparing, on Sunday night, I actually went on YouTube and started watching some of our old Duke teams. Just because, I’m not really that vain, but one, I was just shocked there were so many of our full games on YouTube, but it just brought back memories. It’s the games, it’s the relationships, it’s the experiences you have going there with your teammates and your brothers. Being around it from this vantage point is really cool, but it does remind you of wonderful times.
SI: What videos did you watch? Did you have any favorites?
GH: They were actual games. I was with my family. I have every game on disk, but I just went on my iPad and I was able to watch the Duke-[UNLV national semifinal] game my freshman year [in 1991]. I watched a couple games from my senior year. I think I watched the Florida game, we beat Florida in the semifinals of the Final Four [in 1994]. I think I watched the Marquette game, that was a [Sweet 16] we had my senior year. I can’t remember what else. But I was watching them, and it was weird, but I was watching these games and it reminded me of those times. I wanted to see those games and the guys I played with, those moments.
SI: Did you fill out a bracket this year?
GH: Jim [Nantz] and Bill [Raferty] do, I didn’t do it this year. I kind of attacked the tournament the way I did as a player. I just sort of focused on the eight teams or the four teams that were in front of me. Obviously I’m watching the games on my days off or when I’m not on, but I didn’t fill out a bracket. If I did it I’d probably be miserable right now. Or maybe not. Who knows?
SI: Do you let yourself get excited during close games? Or is it hard when you’re calling the game?
GH: Oh yeah, definitely. You enjoy it, you bring energy. It’s easier to broadcast good games. When a game is close, as a broadcaster, you’re just reacting to the game. If it’s a great game, it’s easier to have a great call. If it’s a blowout, you have to still find interest for fans, keep them in the game. That’s when it becomes a challenge. But when you see a great game or great plays, you’re a fan. You start as a fan when you’re a kid, you watch, you fall in love with the game, you play it, and then you get to a point where you can’t play it. And that could be after high school, after college, after the pros. But after a certain point you can’t play at that kind of level, so you watch. And you admire, and you react. You feel like you’re in the game when you’re calling a game, in a lot of ways. But I enjoy it, I have fun with it. When you have a close one, it makes it a whole lot easier.
SI: There was a story earlier this week that Jim Nantz is very specific about ordering his toast burnt. Have you ever seen him order burnt toast at breakfast?
GH: No, I haven’t seen that. I’ll have to ask Jim about the burnt toast. But in fairness, I haven’t had too many breakfasts with him, we’ve had a couple. But it’s mainly lunch and dinner. I have not seen that, but I will definitely ask him about it.