Grant Hill is a legendary college and professional basketball player who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Tamia is a Grammy nominated singer and actress who just happens to be married to Grant Hill. Together they are a powerful force in sports, music and philanthropy. In exclusive interviews with Publisher Renee Werbin, both discuss success, giving back and balancing busy careers while raising two daughters.
TG: At 20 years old (in 1995) you earned a Grammy nomination for your collaboration on Quincy Jones’ album “Q’s Took Joint” for the song, “You Put A Move on My Heart,” and “Slow Jams.” How did this success at such a young age affect your career?
Tamia: I didn’t win so I remain humble. It was a pleasant surprise being nominated. At that time I was sort of new to the business and new to how the business worked. This became the beginning of my travels. I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and as a kid we didn’t do a lot of traveling outside of Ontario. Occasionally we went to Detroit, which was great, but we didn’t really travel outside of Ontario. I went from Ontario, where I grew up, to California and I was amazed by the palm trees and the clean cars. It was a bit of a culture shock. I acquired my record deal when I was 17 and by 18 and 19 I was traveling the world. It was eye-opening and an amazing experience. As it often happens in life, the further away you get from an experience the more you appreciate it. I think, especially often times in business, you are focused on what you are there to do, not on the aesthetics. I think back and remember the trips and sites and am awed at what I did.
TG: How did visiting Detroit (Motown) have an impact on your life and on your career choice to become a singer?
Tamia: Detroit was amazing. Growing up I listened to Aretha Franklin and anything that came out of Motown, from the Jackson Five to DeBarge – was amazing. I was little, maybe 8 or 9, and I had a chance to see Michael Jackson when he visited Motown, the building. I was on the sidewalk and he walked by and it was a moment for me. Who would know then that when I was 19 or 20 I would get to visit Neverland and meet Michael Jackson? Also, I got to sing on his 30th anniversary. It was pretty cool; a true full circle moment.
TG: Michael Jackson was the ultimate; he was the man; one of the greatest performers of all time.
Tamia: Oh yes, he still is!!!
TG: You were young when you left Ontario. What did your parents think about your career choice?
Tamia: Luckily for me my mom gave me some free reign. I left Ontario when I was 17 years old; I have a 16 year old right now. Can you imagine? I left because I had gotten a record deal; I wasn’t just going out in pursuit of a career, I actually had a job when I left for California and that helped a lot with my parents.
TG: It is rumored that you met Grant Hill via a blind date set-up by legendary soul singer Anita Baker. How did that come about?
Tamia: Anita didn’t set the date up. She told me about Grant at the Soul Train Music Awards. Anita basically asked if I was dating anyone and I said no. She then mentioned Grant Hill as a possible date. I ended up meeting Grant several months later; we went on a date and now 19 years later it worked and here we are, happily married.
TG: Nineteen years is a major accomplishment. With your busy schedules how do you juggle marriage, motherhood, touring and recording?
Tamia: I definitely juggle; you know what, sometimes you drop the ball but you look around; you pick it right up and start juggling again. You always try to find balance. The children and Grant know they come first in my life and they are very supportive of my career. They want me to perform and create albums. September 7 we released my seventh album and the reason I’ve been able to do this is because I’ve had so much support from others and especially from my family. There is comfort knowing that when I’m traveling and performing, home is taken care of. It is a running joke within my camp that as soon as Tamia says “good night,” if I can get a flight I walk off the stage onto a plane. I make it work. My tour starts in September and I’m busy mapping it all out and working on when I am coming home. I prioritize and I love home; I want to be home with Grant and my children as much as possible.
TG: We are thrilled to have you and Tamia on our cover. How old were when you realized that you were an incredible athlete?
Grant: I think I realized I had talent in basketball at two separate stages during my formative years. By the time I was about 10 and 11 years old, I was tall and was exceling in basketball. When I turned 13, before I began high school, I played in a national tournament and our team won the national championship. I was one of the better players on the team. I think those were stellar moments for me and I realized I had some talent.
TG: How did your parents feel about you pursuing a career in basketball?
Grant: My parents have always been supportive of me and of my career choices. They are always behind me, encouraging me. I think when I was young, the idea of having a career in basketball wasn’t something on their radar, or even mine at the time. While I was at home I was trying to position myself to be able to go to college and play at an elite level. When I got to college the idea of a career became pretty clear and my parents were extremely supportive.
TG: Please talk about your experience on campus at Duke, where you are a legend!
Grant: My time on campus at Duke was a fabulous experience. Duke is a big high school as I like to say. It’s a pretty small student body and obviously basketball is a big part of the culture of the school and the fabric of the community. There was a celebrity element but because it was such a small school there was also an air of intimacy. On one hand, I felt like a bit of a celebrity, but also like I was part of the spirit of the school. College life is great. You are in an environment to learn and you are socially interacting with people from all over country and from all over the world. It was challenging and at times it was hard, but it was fun. My time at Duke was rewarding and fulfilling and certainly a great four years of my life.
TG: I know this is a difficult question but can you tell us which is more rewarding: playing college basketball or playing professional basketball?
Grant: In terms of which has been more rewarding, the pros or college, I think they were both rewarding for different reasons. In college you create great memories. We had great success winning. I learned from a great coach and I had a magical four years as a student athlete in college. The NBA was a dream-come-true for me. I was able to come in and play at a very high level right away and had great success. My entire career, both college and professional, was incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
TG: You were a fan favorite; we were always cheering you on! Which fans are more dedicated, the college or the fans attending professional games?
Grant: I think the fans for both are very dedicated, but they are also very different. College fans are really, really passionate. There is a unique relationship people have with their schools; with their alma mater. There is a serious sense of pride that exists and that passion is what makes college basketball resonate with the fans. That is why March Madness has become so huge and so popular. In the professional ranks there is also a real attachment and excitement and a strong sense of pride with the city you’re from. Whether you are from New York, Boston or Atlanta you are rooting for your team. You’ve seen how sports can bring people together, it can galvanize communities. So I don’t think that there is one more powerful than the other, I think both college and pro fans are equally devoted. I’ve been fortunate to be in some very passionate, dedicated environments where the fans were extremely supportive and it’s been a joy.
TG: Your father was a professional football player—the legendary Calvin Hill. Did his career have any impact on your career choice?
Grant: Yes, my dad was a professional football player but that didn’t really have a huge impact on my choice of career. I would say that as a kid I wanted to play football but my dad wouldn’t let me play until I was in high school and by that time I had fallen in love with the game of basketball. From the time I was 13 years old basketball was my sport; it was the sport that I played exclusively. Had my parents allowed me to play football at an early age; who knows, I might have played football. The first time I played basketball and watched a basketball game I fell in love with the sport. I had and still have a relationship with the game and to this day that has been pretty special.
TG: You have been happily married to Tamia, the love of your life, 19 years. Do you have one secret to share on how to create and sustain a great marriage?
Grant: We’ve been married for 19 years and have been together 22 years and you know I don’t think there’s one secret. I really think every relationship is different and the dynamics within every relationship are different. You have to continue to adapt and adjust and find out what works for the two of you.
TG: How do you find balance between your career and your family?
Grant: I think, like everyone, you try to find balance in all that you do. I’ve have a full and busy life both as an athlete and now since I’ve retired from playing. I am also very busy being an engaged and dedicated parent to my children and husband to my wife. That’s important to me and necessary I think to keep my sanity. Sometimes in life things can get a little out of balance and when that happens you know you just try to reassess things; sort of a checks and balances making sure that you have the proper balance for you and what works for you and your family. I’ve worked hard and I try to be disciplined with my time and try to prioritize what is ultimately important.
TG: Travelgirl was launched here in Atlanta. We are proud to have you as a part owner of our Atlanta Hawks. You are “somewhat” back in the game.
Grant: Ownership has been fantastic. I have dreamed about it since I first entered the NBA as a rookie in 1995. I find it amazing that you are two years removed from retiring and playing that I became part of a group that was able to acquire the Atlanta Hawks and be a vice-chairman; it has been totally rewarding. It has also been challenging. I’ve learned a great deal and it’s something that just gives me a great sense of satisfaction. I have a sense of pride knowing that I am an owner and knowing that we are working tirelessly to improve the Hawks from every agenda. We are improving the business aspect, the in-game position, the experience for our fans, for the community and for the City of Atlanta. It’s a huge responsibility but it’s a fun position to be in, something that I am grateful for.
TG: Were there any mentors who encouraged you along the way?
Grant: There have been people along the way who have been helpful and have been positive influences and great examples in my life. In terms of mentors, I haven’t had any formal mentors if you will; I think my greatest asset, my greatest resources have been my parents and to be able to bounce ideas off of them. My parents are extremely successful and incredibly intelligent. They are my No. 1, and I’m grateful and fortunate to have parents who can serve in that roll.
TG: What advice do you have for those young hopefuls who want to follow in your famous footsteps on the court and in life?
Grant: I think in any industry where you want to have success you have to first and foremost have a vision. You have to have a game plan and you have to have a goal and know what you want to accomplish. You have to believe in that goal, work extremely hard and surround yourself with people who support your dream, your vision and your goal. Whether that’s in sports, in business or in relationships you have to be willing to sacrifice. I know as it relates to basketball I was tall, I had great genetics and certain things that were in my favor, but what people don’t realize was the fact that I sacrificed a lot. I didn’t do a lot of things that my friends were doing, I focused on what I wanted to accomplish during my teen years, during my formative years and that sacrifice helped contribute to my ultimately moving on and having success on the court.
TG: Please talk about your foundation and how you determine which charities you support.
Grant: Our foundation is very important to both me and my wife. We use it to give money and resources to various charities and organizations that are involved in doing good things. We haven’t focused in one area; we have given to all different types of organizations over the years. We are certainly grateful that we are in a position where we can make a difference. We love giving; both giving of money and resources and giving our time. We hope to continue to do that. As you give, you receive; I really believe that and I have believed that from day one and I’ll continue to believe that forever.