On May 17th, 1995, the NBA named Grant Hill and Jason Kidd co-NBA Rookie of the Year.
And it’s something that should not have taken place. It’s because Hill wasn’t just a good rookie that season.
He was one of the best players in the league.
The Detroit Pistons selected Hill out of Duke University with the third overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. In his rookie season, he averaged 19.9 points on 47% shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He led the Pistons that season in points and steals. Furthermore, Hill made NBA history by being the first rookie to lead an NBA All-Star fan balloting. He had 1,289,585 votes, besting Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic.
Hill would go on to become an emerging star. It didn’t matter though because the Pistons were awful. That year, they finished with a woeful 28-54 record, missing the playoffs by a wide margin.
Here’s where things get a tad bit confusing.
Kidd, who played for the Dallas Mavericks at the time averaged 11.7 points on 39% shooting, 7.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game the same year. And just like the Pistons, the Mavericks missed the playoffs also, finishing 36-46. In his rookie campaign, Kidd led his team in assists and steals.
Outside of both players being on teams missing the playoffs, they shared nothing else in common that year. Nothing that warranted both sharing the rookie of the year trophy.
Hill was night and day the better player that season.
With Michael Jordan being retired at the beginning of Hill’s emergence, there was proverbial “passing of the torch”. It’s something Pistons legend Isiah Thomas alluded to several years ago. On an episode of NBA TV’s “Open Court”, the Detroit Pistons legend spoke on Hill and his arrival
“When [Michael] Jordan was retiring, and Grant was coming into the league, we were talking about passing the mantle to you”, said Thomas.
Per usual, Thomas was right.
That is until Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995, suiting up once again for the Chicago Bulls. And it was just at the tail end of Hill and Kidd’s rookie season at that.
Soon after he returned was a showdown with Hill on April 12th., dubbed by many as “Heir vs. Air”, giving credence to the claims made by Thomas. Hill only played 33 minutes in a 124-113 victory for the Bulls over Pistons.
That didn’t stop Hill from creating a memorable moment though.
It was fitting when you think about it, seeing how Hill’s a former Duke Blue Devil and Jordan’s former UNC Tar Heel. Let’s get back to that memorable moment though. It came when Hill blew past Jordan with a nasty crossover, cruising to the rim for two of his 18 points.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen.
Allen Iverson wasn’t the first player to crossover Jordan. It has been done before.
And there’s an argument that Hill’s crossover was better.
Let’s be fair to Kidd though. His rookie campaign was impressive.
He was in the top in the NBA among all players in assists (10th) and steals (7th) per game that year. Kidd had some impressive games that season as well. One that stands out in particular is during a 156-147 overtime win for his Mavericks against the Houston Rockets. Jamal Mashburn led the Mavericks in scoring that game, but it was Kidd who was the anchor. Kidd put up an impressive 38 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and three steals. Also, he nailed an impressive eight three pointers in that game as well.
The problem for Kidd is that Hill could fill stat the sheet across the board better than him. For instance, Hill had four games that season where he tallied at least 33 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. One particular performance that sticks out for Hill is a 104-103 victory Pistons victory over the Boston Celtics. Hill put up 33 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals.
Both players had impressive rookie seasons. Kidd just didn’t have the complete body of work that Hill did.
History cannot be re-written.
With that in mind, Hill and Kidd will be synonymous to a gross error on the NBA’s part. Luckily for the league, both had careers that earned them an induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
So in that regard, the error looks less egregious.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter : @koryewoods