by Michael Martinez
Grant Hill knows exactly where he’ll be Sunday night when the Clippers touch down in Philadelphia for the last stop of their annual Grammy trip – in front of a TV in his hotel room.
His wife, Tamia Hill, is nominated for two Grammys in R&B, and although Grant would love to be sitting next to her when her categories are announced, he knows that duty calls.
The Clippers and Lakers surrender their tenancy at Staples Center every year for the Grammy Awards, which means two weeks on the road for each team. It also means that Hill, who is playing his 17th NBA season and his first with the Clippers, will be 2,700 miles away preparing for Monday night’s against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It always seems to conflict with the season,” Hill said. “Hopefully she’ll make another album when I retire, and hopefully it’ll get nominated so I’ll get a chance to go.”
Scheduling conflicts are familiar ground for the Hills, whose chosen careers involve considerable travel and time away from home. Not surprisingly, they have three home bases: Orlando, where Hill spent six seasons playing for the Magic and where the family set down roots; Phoenix, where they lived for five years and where their two daughters attend school; and LA, where Grant may end his career playing for the Clippers.
Life, as they both know, is sometimes spent comparing datebooks. But family comes first.
“It’s like a juggling act,” Tamia said. “Sometimes you drop the ball, and you pick it up and start where you left off. As the children get older, it becomes more difficult because now they have a schedule and things they’re doing as well. But at the end of the day, if it isn’t good for me and my family, it isn’t good for me.”
Tamia isn’t just another basketball wife. She’s an accomplished recording artist with her own independent record label, Plus One Music Group, and five albums to her credit. Her current album “Beautiful Surprise” and title song earned her nominations for best R&B album and song.
“That’s the epitome of accomplishment if you’re a recording artist,” Hill said. “It’s similar to winning a championship.”
Hill, 40, won a pair of NCAA titles at Duke, but he’s still without an NBA crown. His pro career has been riddled with injuries that have cost him all or parts of several seasons, including an ankle injury that has required several operations. A bone bruise in his right knee forced him to miss the first 10 weeks of this season.
Tamia understands her husband’s pain; together, they’ve shared their respective medical issues and grown from them. In 2003, at age 28, she learned she had multiple sclerosis.
That’s not the kind of news a person absorbs easily. But earlier that year, Hill had undergone a major surgical procedure on his left ankle. If anyone understood her pain and confusion, he did.
They went to Duke University to consult specialists. While Tamia wondered what was happening to her, Hill looked for answers.
“Grant’s a fighter,” Tamia said. “First thing he said was, ‘Explain this to us. What do we need to do?’ While my head is still spinning, I know I have someone in my corner that’s listening, taking notes and figuring out what we’re going to do to get past it.”
They relied on each other’s strength to get past their difficulties. Whatever crises they face, they know they have someone to help them through.
If anything, Hill said, it has solidified their marriage.
“When you go through tough times and you share it with someone you care for and love, it just brings you closer,” he said. “You see each other at your weakest, at your most vulnerable, and that can either tear you apart or make you stronger. We’ve certainly been through sickness and through health. We take those parts of our vows seriously.
“We grow strength from being there and seeing how each other responds to whatever adversity we’ve gone through. My injuries, my setbacks, my ordeal, I feel watching her strength and continuing with her career and being a mom and wife and friend, and not complaining, that puts things in perspective for me.”
Tamia compares her MS to the volume on a radio dial. Right now, she’s at a one. She admits to feeling fatigue every now and them, but her symptoms are generally under control.
She hasn’t slowed her pace. She completed a 30-city, 2½-month “Single Ladies” tour with R. Kelly in December, and after the Grammys, she’ll begin prepping for several shows overseas.
Last November, after a tour performance, Tamia was able to walk from the Nokia Theatre at LA Live to Staples Center to watch a Clippers game. It was the first time she had been able to sing, then watch her husband, although Hill was still sidelined by his injury.
Although Hill won’t get an opportunity to accompany his wife to the Grammys, both of them hope it will be a big night for her and a big season for the Clippers.
“Hopefully,” she said, “I can get a Grammy and he can get a ring.”