"I don't want to be any kind of savior," Hill says. "I'm 22 years old, and I'm going to mess up sometimes. I just don't want that to be a major shock to people."
But it would be a shock if he made a serious misstep, because so far his instincts have been so good. When Hill gave a speech about the importance of education at a Detroit area high school in March, Fila wanted to unveil the new Grant Hill sneaker at the same time. Hill nixed the idea, deciding it was inappropriate to say simultaneously, "Stay in school" and "Buy my sneaker."
But other incidents related to his celebrity are beyond his control. In March a teenager was hospitalized after being shot in the head by another teenager when he refused to give up his sneakers—Grant Hill sneakers. (At press time the youth remained in serious condition at a Detroit hospital.) Once again Hill said precisely the right thing. "You do feel guilty to a certain degree," he said, "but really, we're talking about a societal problem. The problem isn't the value the kids put on the sneakers, it's the lack of value some of them put on human life."
Dumars watches the rookie handle himself in such moments and sees not just the student in Hill, but also the makings of a teacher. "There's probably an eighth-grader out there," he says, "who is going to be very lucky to break into the NBA as a rookie on a team with Grant Hill." And whatever wisdom Hill imparts to that young man will have a touch of Joe Dumars in it.