Because Everyone Needs a Little Duke in Their Life.

Nope. This post has absolutely nothing to do with hair. Over the weekend, as I watched Duke dribble their way into our 10th ACC tournament win in 13 years, they played a commercial for the ESPN film “The Fab Five,” where Jalen Smith “told us how he really felt” and called the black Duke basketball players “Uncle Toms.” I won’t even get into how angry that made me, BUT Grant Hill responded better than I ever could in The Quad. I just had to repost it here so I could have it forever. 🙂

Grant Hill’s Response to Jalen Rose

Associated Press Grant Hill currently plays for the Phoenix Suns.

“The Fab Five,” an ESPN film about the Michigan basketball careers of Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson from 1991 to 1993, was broadcast for the first time Sunday night. In the show, Rose, the show’s executive producer, stated that Duke recruited only black players he considered to be “Uncle Toms.” Grant Hill, a player on the Duke team that beat Michigan in the 1992 Final Four, reflected on Rose’s comments.

I am a fan, friend and longtime competitor of the Fab Five. I have competed against Jalen Rose and Chris Webber since the age of 13. At Michigan, the Fab Five represented a cultural phenomenon that impacted the country in a permanent and positive way. The very idea of the Fab Five elicited pride and promise in much the same way the Georgetown teams did in the mid-1980s when I was in high school and idolized them. Their journey from youthful icons to successful men today is a road map for so many young, black men (and women) who saw their journey through the powerful documentary, “The Fab Five.”

It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events, therefore, to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke “Uncle Toms” and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me. I should have guessed there was something regrettable in the documentary when I received a Twitter apology from Jalen before its premiere. I am aware Jalen has gone to some length to explain his remarks about my family in numerous interviews, so I believe he has some admiration for them.

In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only “black players that were ‘Uncle Toms,’ ” Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today.

I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children.

I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale.

This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him.

My teammates at Duke — all of them, black and white — were a band of brothers who came together to play at the highest level for the best coach in basketball. I know most of the black players who preceded and followed me at Duke. They all contribute to our tradition of excellence on the court.

It is insulting and ignorant to suggest that men like Johnny Dawkins (coach at Stanford), Tommy Amaker (coach at Harvard), Billy King (general manager of the Nets), Tony Lang (coach of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins in Japan), Thomas Hill (small-business owner in Texas), Jeff Capel (former coach at Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth), Kenny Blakeney (assistant coach at Harvard), Jay Williams (ESPN analyst), Shane Battier (Memphis Grizzlies) and Chris Duhon (Orlando Magic) ever sold out their race.

To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous. All of us are extremely proud of the current Duke team, especially Nolan Smith. He was raised by his mother, plays in memory of his late father and carries himself with the pride and confidence that they instilled in him.

The sacrifice, the effort, the education and the friendships I experienced in my four years are cherished. The many Duke graduates I have met around the world are also my “family,” and they are a special group of people. A good education is a privilege.

Just as Jalen has founded a charter school in Michigan, we are expected to use our education to help others, to improve life for those who need our assistance and to use the excellent education we have received to better the world.

A highlight of my time at Duke was getting to know the great John Hope Franklin, John B. Duke Professor of History and the leading scholar of the last century on the total history of African-Americans in this country. His insights and perspectives contributed significantly to my overall development and helped me understand myself, my forefathers and my place in the world.

Ad ingenium faciendum, toward the building of character, is a phrase I recently heard. To me, it is the essence of an educational experience. Struggling, succeeding, trying again and having fun within a nurturing but competitive environment built character in all of us, including every black graduate of Duke.

My mother always says, “You can live without Chaucer and you can live without calculus, but you cannot make it in the wide, wide world without common sense.” As we get older, we understand the importance of these words. Adulthood is nothing but a series of choices: you can say yes or no, but you cannot avoid saying one or the other. In the end, those who are successful are those who adjust and adapt to the decisions they have made and make the best of them.

I caution my fabulous five friends to avoid stereotyping me and others they do not know in much the same way so many people stereotyped them back then for their appearance and swagger. I wish for you the restoration of the bond that made you friends, brothers and icons.

I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.

Grant Henry Hill
Phoenix Suns
Duke ‘94


9 thoughts on “Because Everyone Needs a Little Duke in Their Life.

  1. Jayne says:

    I feel like people keep overlooking the fact that Jalen said he was JEALOUS of Grant and he resented all that Grant had, not Grant himself. In the documentary, Jalen, as well as the other players are talking about how they felt at that time. Jalen said “thought” not “think”.

    What’s interesting is that this has become the most talked about element of the documentary, but there has not been any “outrage” over the fact that these five, YOUNG Black men were receiving racists letters and death threats from GROWN White people.

    • HB says:

      Well, I for one, did not overlook this. I understand that Jalen was speaking about his past, but I also think he knew what a controversy it would cause saying it on camera. Either way, it was in poor taste. He should have known better…honestly, I think he did it on purpose for the uproar.

  2. pamela says:

    I also agree that Grant Hill totally missed Jalen’s point. As a matter of fact I would bet that he didn’t even watch the story! If he had, I’m not sure how someone as educated as he is, and educated at Duke for that matter, could be so off base!! I was proud that Jalen showed a vulnerability that many men, especially black athletes rarely ever show. He was speaking about how he felt at the time – when he was a 19 year old kid!! He goes on to say that the root of those feelings was because he was jealous of Grant Hill. Jealous of his upbringing, jealous of the fact that he may not have had the same types of struggles as a youth that Jalen had. How often do you hear that? How often to you hear ANYONE, but especially a man admit that he is jealous of another person? Instead of being applauded for his honesty and being more self aware, Grant focuses on how Jalen said he felt almost 20 years ago. Really? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that obviously Grant has some unresolved issues about being perceived as an Uncle Tom. Maybe he should take a page from Jalen’s book and do a little introspection. Furthermore, if Grant didn’t believe just a little part of that statement, it wouldn’t have sent him into an adolescent rage.

  3. teachermrw says:

    I think that the comments made by Jalen Rose denigrate student-athletes. They were cruel, and unwarranted.

  4. atribitt says:

    well said. however, he could have said it in one simple sentence…. dude was straight HATIN’!!
    side note: i love grant! and i’m always getting the compliment that i look exactly like tamia!

  5. kenda says:

    i’ve got to be honest, i think grant hill missed jalen rose’s point. jalen explains pretty clearly in the fab five documentary that those were his teenage feelings about black duke. jalen’s now in his late 30s and has expounded a lot more on his current feelings about the type of players duke recruits & grant hill. if you’re interested in a more nuanced take bomani jones & ta-nehisi coates both wrote good posts on this yesterday.

    • HB says:

      Thanks for the articles. I disagree with both of them, but they were insightful. Bomani Jones was mainly speaking from a personal place about what an Uncle Tom has evolved to mean or who has hinted at him that he is different from other blacks. Others can tell the opposite story – me being one of those people. Although, he is right about one thing – I’m not sure why white folks are mad.

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