Following his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Grant Hill has signed a lifetime endorsement deal contract with Fila, the sneaker company he was with when he entered the NBA in 1994.
"Fila was there for my first professional steps on the court," Hill said. "We have now come full circle, and I am thrilled to be a part of the family once again."
Under the new deal, Hill and Fila will look to revive retro releases of his coveted 1990s signature shoes starting next month. They will also begin working on new editions and remixes of Hill's early signature models.
Unlike fellow sneaker brands such as Puma, New Balance and AND1 -- all of which, like Fila, were popular in the 1990s -- Fila isn't expected to make a return to the performance basketball sneaker landscape anytime soon, with the company's current focus on reestablishing their retro business with a focus on Hill.
"Fila is proud to have been a part of Grant's history, partnering with him when he was drafted into the league," said Jon Epstein, president of Fila North America. "Grant was a tough yet graceful competitor. He possesses a strong work ethic and has demonstrated resilience and perseverance."
When Hill turned pro following his successful college career at Duke, his signing with the Italy-based company over Nike or Adidas caught people by surprise and soon took the industry by storm. Hill was just the fourth NBA player to have a signature shoe for his rookie season, and his debut GH1 sneaker sold more than 1.5 million pairs during the 1994-95 season. It was the highest volume of pairs sold for a first signature since the industry-defining Air Jordan 1 a decade before it.
Thanks in part to Hill's endorsement and a co-Rookie of the Year debut, Fila's market share of the then-$8 billion footwear marketplace doubled, according to research by Sporting Goods Intelligence at the time. He was credited with establishing the Italian fashion brand known for its high-end tennis shoes in basketball and pop culture circles stateside.
The next year, the Grant Hill 2 model sold even more pairs, to the tune of $135 million for the line, setting the stage for an iconic crossover design that Fila would eventually re-release more than a handful of times since. By the following year, the brand trailed only Nike at the time in U.S. basketball shoe sales, leaping past both Reebok and Adidas.
The design's patent leather piping made for an unmistakable look from a mile away, with the brand's "F" logo standing out along the outsole. That season, the shoe accounted for a massive 10 percent of the company's overall footwear sales.
The GH2 is often revered as one of the greatest basketball sneaker designs in the industry. It was penned by David Raysse, who went on to found Brandblack earlier this decade, and currently designs Lonzo Ball's "ZO2" signature series in a partnership with Big Baller Brand. Thanks to the success of Hill's first two signature models, Fila inked him to a then-record shoe deal extension in 1997, committing a massive $80 million over seven years to its face of the brand.
However, when the deal expired in 2004, with Hill battling through a series of foot and ankle injuries, he and the company parted ways. Even without Hill under contract, the shoe never really went away, as the brand simply released it under the unassociated "Fila 96" name in recent years.