Wednesday , Dec , 30 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Comeback of the decade: Grant Hill or Chris Andersen?

His career and life were threatened by several ankle surgeries. Unlike LL Cool J, there’s nothing wrong with calling Hill’s play in Phoenix a comeback. Like the Denver Nuggets’ Chris Andersen, his story is an example of perseverance and determination. Is it the best comeback, though? In this edition of head-to-head, HoopsVibe The Blog is wondering if Hill or Andersen had the top comeback of the past decade? As always, read the post, form your opinion, and get at us in the comment box with thoughts …

Comeback of the decade: Grant Hill or Chris Andersen?

 In head-to-head we compare. You tell us who is best …

It was a Christmas miracle.

With time running out in the first half between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers’ December 25th match-up, Grant Hill tossed up a seventy-five foot prayer shot that was surely answered by God.

The heave wasn’t the miracle, though. Hill playing basketball was.

(Hill’s Christmas miracle shot.)

After a storied NCAA career at the University of Duke and achieving All-Star standing with the Detroit Pistons, Hill received a multi-year deal for the maximum amount available with the up-and-coming Orlando Magic and then fell on the hardest of times.

His career and life were threatened by several ankle surgeries. Unlike LL Cool J, there’s nothing wrong with calling Hill’s play in Phoenix a comeback. Like the Denver Nuggets’ Chris Andersen, his story is an example of perseverance and determination.

 Is it the best comeback, though? In this edition of head-to-head, HoopsVibe The Blog is wondering if Hill or Andersen had the top comeback of the past decade? As always, read the post, form your opinion, and get at us in the comment box with thoughts.

The Case for Hill …

In the summer of 2000, expectations were high for the Magic. Sky high.

After hoarding cap space for the better part of a year, the club put its financial flexibility to use, acquiring young Tracy McGrady and landing Hill, an established superstar, through a sign-and-trade with the Pistons.

Hill never had a chance to meet expectations. In his final playoff series in Motown, he ignored the medical staff’s advice, played on a wrecked ankle, and spent years in-and-out of hospital recovering and rehabbing.

During his first four seasons with the Magic, he averaged just 12 games played per season, missing all of 2003-04. His reason for sitting the entire year was particularly alarming: Hill, after a fresh round of ankle surgery, contracted a life threatening bacterial infection and was forced to take medicine off an intravenous for six months.     

Things started improving four years ago. Hill stayed healthy for his final campaign with Orlando, joined running-and-gunning Phoenix, and, despite the Suns’ up-tempo style, hasn’t missed a game since 2007-08.

Sure, he’s a role player, not a superstar. And sure, his prime was compromised due to injuries. Still, considering the setbacks, does it matter?

The Case for Andersen …

His persona became bigger than winning.

Unlike Hill, Andersen was a long-shot to make the NBA, surviving a difficult childhood and bouncing around international basketball before finally sticking with the Denver Nuggets nearly a decade ago.

During this first go around in The Mile High City, he became known for high flying antics, energy off the bench, and entertaining fans, which led to former teammate Junior Harrington dubbing him The Birdman.

This is where the trouble began. Soon, The Birdman shtick took priority over being a professional basketball player. For instance, Andersen – who left Denver for the New Orleans Hornets as a free agent – didn’t contribute much on-court, but did make quite the, well, impression at the 2005 Slam Dunk Contest.

(Andersen’s now infamous participation in the Dunk Contest.)

Word is he was living The Life: girls, clubs, booze, and drugs. Eventually, it caught up to him when he tested positive for a banned substance and got hit with a two-year suspension, courtesy of league head office.

The Birdman was grounded. Most thought it was permanent, but we were wrong.

Very quietly, Andersen signed with Denver as a free agent for the veteran’s minimum after getting reinstated in early 2008. Little was expected, but Andersen soon paid big dividends, emerging as a defensive cog off the bench for the surprising Nuggets.

Last summer, he got his reward, inking a five-year, $26 million contract. Best of all, his team is a Western Conference power and Andersen shows no sign of slowing -even if The Birdman persona occasionally slips out on-court

Our Call: Hill. His shift from injury prone swing to ironman is amazing and narrowly tops Andersen triumphing over his personal demons in Denver.

Hill or Andersen? Or did somebody else have the NBA’s best comeback of the past decade? Get at us with thoughts in the comment box below. And follow Oly’s on HoopsVibe The Blog and Twitter. Photo courtesy of billy-y1.