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Reflexively, Calvin Hill looked to his side, for at every other Final Four that's where Grant had always been, right there next to him. Never missed one, 1984 through '88, Grant Hill's father and Calvin Hill's son—just the two of them doing a guy thing, eating what they wanted and sleeping when they wanted, making a mess of the hotel room, going to all the parties, even one night calling Janet from some particularly sodden bacchanal to torture her into wondering what in God's name her husband was doing with her boy. And here Calvin turned and saw Janet, and realized that Grant was down there on the Hoosier Dome floor, wearing a face Calvin remembered seeing only once before, when Calvin had tickled him as a baby.
They'd tried so hard, Calvin and Janet had. Picked out Reston, a planned community in northern Virginia, a socioeconomic and ethnic Shangri-la where the biggest mischief their son would get into was running the tolls on the road to Dulles airport. Filled their home with fine art. Gave him piano lessons, for chrissakes! Kept him in school in Reston even as Calvin played out the twilight of his NFL career in Cleveland.
And the places they took him! In London at age six he did headstands in the office of Kingman Brewster, the U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James and erstwhile president of Calvin's alma mater, Yale. At a brunch in New Haven before the Harvard game, 12-ycar-old Grant mistook Norman Mailer for Harvard president Derek Bok and had to be set straight by Yale president A. Bartlett Giamatti.
Calvin and Janet forbade Grant to so much as consider playing football until the ninth grade, lest he be scarred by some martinet youth-league coach or damaged by premature comparisons with his dad. So what does he do? He never plays a down. Instead he finds a sport of his own, and in 1991, by age 18, with his parents watching at the Hoosier Dome, wins the game's most coveted title in his first collegiate season. Then he wins another NCAA title a year later, all the while turning his dad into an absolutely irredeemable, boola-boola-screaming, voodoo-believing athletic parent.
Television cameras find Calvin often now. Grant and Janet say it's because he knows all the camera angles in every arena in which Duke plays and picks out the most conspicuous seat in the house. More likely the cameras can't resist the figure he cuts: always a Duke hat pulled rakishly down over his brow, always a white shirt; the same khaki slacks, same brown loafers; a bag of M & Ms—must be peanut, must be purchased on the way to the arena—and a cache of Doublemint gum, precisely three sticks of which go to Eural (Onion) Lang, father of Grant's teammate Antonio Lang, just before tip-off. "A secret society," Calvin says. "Sort of like Skull and Bones."
By the time the celebration ended and he finally hauled himself out into the Indiana night two Aprils ago, singing the Duke fight song and wondering how anyone who has won a Super Bowl could possibly deserve this, too, Grant Hill's father had accommodated himself to the novelty of Janet's presence at his side. It was worth the chore of keeping the hotel room clean. "To be both on the inside and the outside, that was something very special for Calvin," Janet says. "Believe me. I was there when he made the Pro Bowl. I was there when he won the Super Bowl. Nothing made him happier."
From the company Grant Hill keeps—he has been mentioned with teammate Bobby Hurley, Kentucky's Jamal Mashburn, Memphis State's Anfernee Hardaway, Indiana's Calbert Cheaney and Michigan's Chris Webber as a likely Player of the Year—we know that he is a member of college basketball's elite. From his parents' achievements we know him to be a product of the power elite: Janet, a mathematician by training, is a partner in the Washington, D.C., consulting firm of Alexander & Associates; Calvin is a v.p. with the Baltimore Orioles. Mom shared a dormitory suite with Hillary Clinton at Wellesley, and Dad was a flatteringly rendered character in the original Doonesbury, so Grant must be the progeny of the cultural elite too. Yet the elite are supposed to take their birthright for granted and step regally up when called upon. Grant's reluctance to do so has been the great struggle in the otherwise glitch-free life of this only child of only children.
His mom attributes this to "his sense of protocol." His dad cites "his belief in hierarchy. He's reluctant—maybe too much so—to stand out, to be perceived as better than others." His coach, Mike Krzyzewski, knows that the minor matter of whether Duke will win a third straight national championship hinges largely on whether his junior star can be cajoled into "jumping his place in line." Says Krzyzewski, "A kid like Grant needs to be helped to get to his rightful position, to realize that he's really that good. Grant being Grant, he wants to be asked to advance in the line. He'll always be very sensitive toward everyone else in line, even when he's at the head of it."
As an eighth-grader at Langston Hughes Junior High, Grant was so mortified when his famous dad accepted an invitation to speak at his school that he faked an illness and hid out in the nurse's office. One day, when Calvin picked him up at basketball practice in a pricey German sports car, the son asked the father to come henceforth in the family Volkswagen so the other kids would not think Grant special. Eventually he became a star at South Lakes High, and there was no disputing that he was special. But when reporters wanted Calvin's comments on his son. Grant asked his dad to go easy on the interviews, so the other fathers might have a chance to be in the papers too.
His 1991 and 1992 NCAA championship rings go unworn. They're squirreled away with Calvin's Super Bowl ring, because Grant doesn't want to run into friends like Webber or Rodney Rogers of Wake Forest and make them feel lesser somehow. Even in the matter of the movie Malcolm X (to which he gives a thumbs-up), Grant wishes Spike Lee had spent more time chronicling how the pilgrimage to Mecca turned Malcolm into an apostle of conciliation. "Grant," says his dad, "is more interested in harmony than disharmony."