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Everyone’s journey to the NBA is different. Some know from an early age that they have a special talent on the court, while others realize it later in life. For NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, he didn’t think a pro career was in store for him even when he was winning multiple championships at Duke.

But looking back at his incredible NBA career today, Hill credits his success to growing up as an only child.

Grant Hill was a lonely child growing up

Grant Hill is thankful he grew up as an only child.
Grant Hill poses with his father and former Dallas Cowboys player, Calvin Hill | Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Growing up in Reston, Virginia, Hill spent much of his time alone because he was an only child. When he wasn’t hanging out with his friends, he was studying the sport of basketball by himself to soak up all the knowledge he could.

“I am the only child to only children. I’m used to spending a considerable amount of time by myself,” Hill said in a recent interview with CNBC Make It. “My parents bought a Betamax in 1982 and I taped everything. I watched countless hours of tape. I studied players’ moves, footwork, and the various fundamentals.”

Calvin Hill, Grant’s father, played in the NFL for 12 years and passed down his exceptional athleticism to his son. Hill’s natural talent combined with his insatiable work ethic turned him into quite the player, but he didn’t expect to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional athlete himself.

“I don’t know if I realistically thought that [the NBA] could be possible,” Hill said.

Hill says being an only child helped him achieve his NBA dreams

Hill spent so much of his childhood by himself as an only child, but he wasn’t really alone the entire time. He always had basketball by his side.

“The game was my best friend. It kept me company,” Hill told CNBC Make It. “No one ever had to tell me to work or read up [on basketball], or go outside and get lost in your imagination while working on dribbling and shooting. I don’t know if I fully understood it or appreciated it at the time, but I was a student of the game.

“I was practicing. I was putting my hours in. For me, it was fun. I was starving for information. I was dribbling in the house and going to the store dribbling the basketball on the sidewalk. I’d sit in a chair in the kitchen and dribble while sitting in a chair.”

Because of the amount of time Hill had to work on his game and learn about the sport, he became a top high school prospect and caught the attention of Mike Krzyzewski. He won two NCAA championships at Duke, then went on to become a seven-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer in the NBA.

Hill on what it takes to be successful


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Hill is one of the most successful basketball players to ever live, and he said the secret to achieving your goals in life is to simply love what you do. The success will follow from there.

“When you love something and you’re passionate about something, that opens the gates,” he said. “There are some people who just want to be on the team, play, and have fun. Then, there are those who want to be the best ever.

“There’s something there that drives you, pulls you along, and doesn’t allow you to accept anything less than winning and being successful.”

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