Bucks’ George Hill: Basketball Is ‘Last Thought on My Mind’ amid Social Unrest

Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Matt York/Associated Press

Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill is on the cusp of his team reuniting to challenge for an NBA title, and his mind is about as far away from the court as it could be. 

It’s a perspective shaped by the events of the last few weeks—and the hundreds of years of institutionalized racism in the United States preceding them—following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police in late May. 

Speaking on a panel titled “The State of Black America: A Discussion with Representatives from Sports & Entertainment” in his hometown of Indianapolis alongside Myles Turner, Tamika Catchings and Butler men’s basketball coach LaVall Jordan, Hill said it’s been hard for him to worry about playing basketball lately, per ESPN’s Eric Woodyard

“I’ve been working every day since this all started with my body, my game and things like that, but as a whole, I [can’t] care less about basketball right now,” Hill said. “That’s like my last worry. That’s just the game I’m blessed to play. When the ball goes up in the air, I’m ready to play, I love the competitive side of it, but that’s not who I am. So, that’s my last thought on my mind is basketball. I [can’t] care less what’s going on. I think there’s bigger issues and bigger things to tackle in life right now than a basketball game, but that’s just my personal opinion.”

Hill rose to prominence in Indiana’s hypercompetitive high school basketball ranks, eventually returning to the city as a member of the Pacers after staring at nearby IUPUI in college. The city that referred to Hill as a “hometown hero” hasn’t always been kind to the rest of his family, and it’s been weighing on him more lately:

“If I didn’t have [basketball talent, I possibly would’ve been that George Floyd. I possibly would’ve been all my family members that got gunned down in the streets in Indianapolis. So, yes, this for me, it impacts me even more because I’ve seen the killing going on, and I’ve seen the police brutality. I’ve seen that my cousin is laying in the street for an hour and a half before another police officer gets there. I’ve seen that. So, I get emotional because it really hurts. I’ve got interracial kids, and I’m scared just for my whole life…

“…So, for me, yes, I had frustration. Did I want to grab every gun that I own? Yes, I did. That’s all I knew. But is it going to help? No. We’ve been doing this for 400 years. It’s been the same. So, for me, it just means more because you’re supposed to look at those people as protectors, and you don’t have that. You’re supposed to look at all these situations as learning lessons, but you’re like, ‘When is learning enough? Like when is it enough? Like when are we going to be tired of this? How do we change the narrative?’ So, for me, it’s just tough.”

The 34-year-old is in the midst of his 12th NBA season and averaging 21.2 minutes per game off the bench, yet that all seems far away now. Even back in his market city of Milwaukee, Bucks players have handed out water and food to protestors, organized their own demonstrations at Fiserv Forum and spoken in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Hill will continue to do the same, even as the NBA prepares to resume play in late July. 

“No, I’m not going to shut up and dribble. I don’t care if you take my contract, I don’t care if you say that I’m this or that; I’m human,” Hill said. “I have a heart. I have a pulse. I have emotions. I’m a man. I have kids. I’m a father. I have a wife. I have friends. I have loved ones. It means [something] to me. I’m not going to just shut up and dribble.”

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