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Grant Hill: How to Win On and Off the Court 

NBA All-Star and current Atlanta Hawks co-owner offers four strategies for success.

Grant Hill has commanded every court he’s ever played on, from his four years at Duke to his 19 in the NBA on storied squads that included the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic, and now as co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks. Throughout his career, Hill has rooted his success in building and leading great teams—on and off the court.

As part of Noralle’s virtual event series “Lessons in Leadership,” Hill shared stories from his career as both a star player and a team executive. 

Here are four insights on leadership and team-building for anyone interested in honing his or her skills as an individual star driving group success:

1. Understand What it Takes to Succeed

At 18, Hill, playing forward, was an integral part of the Duke Blue Devils team that shocked the then-defending champions, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), in the semifinals of the 1990-91 season.

The year before, Duke had lost badly to UNLV in the championship. Preparing to face off against their rival again wasn’t easy. The Blue Devils spent months reviewing film, running drills, and simulating offensive and defensive plays.

The preparation paid off. “We really kind of hit our stride there at the end of the season, and were fortunate to do the unthinkable—win the championship,” Hill said. “Understanding the investment necessary to have success that season helped to kick things off for Coach K and the Duke basketball program to become an elite championship program,” he said.

The lesson: Success can often come right after a devastating failure if you take the time to learn from your mistakes and rededicate as a team to honing your craft and developing the knowledge and skills to succeed.  

2. Practice As You Play

Winning that first championship was just the start for Hill. He went on to be named Best Male College Basketball Player, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, a seven-time NBA All-Star, and a five-time All-NBA player. Hill attributes much of this success to how he and his team treated each practice like it was preparation for the championship game, demonstrating the same intensity as they would playing their toughest opponent. That way, bringing their A-game became a matter of routine.

The lesson: Approach everything at your best, even when you’re fighting nerves or contending with an unexpected challenge. “There’s that adage: If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” says Hill. “So there was championship effort in everything we did—in practice, in how we watched the film, how we went over scouting reports. What’s necessary to be successful becomes a habit.”

3. Build a Strong Team Culture

As a player, Hill strived to maintain morale, motivation, and comradery among his teammates. Even now, having moved from the locker room to the boardroom, he still uses his experience on the court to help build a culture of collaboration and team commitment.

It starts with the “right leadership and right people in charge who have the vision to go out and recruit the right kind of people, whose skillsets complement one another, whose personalities will respect one another,” said Hill. “That culture of shared accountability and mutual respect should work its way down to how individual players treat one another.”

The lesson: Successful teams are built on a culture that emphasizes talent, integrity, and respect. 

4. Never Stop Learning and Improving

Even after a 19-year basketball career and, now, six years into team ownership, Hill remains just as committed to learning and improving as when he started. He regularly connects with mentors from different walks of life to glean insights that he can apply in his work. “I have a natural curiosity in terms of learning from others who’ve done great things. What can I pull from their experiences, their life, and their journey?”

The lesson: Aim to become the best at what you do, but never let yourself think you’ve become too good to be a student of the game. Whether you’re on a team, or leading one, keep an open mind about how you can improve and continue to create and add value.