Solomon Hill quickly became an Atlanta fan favorite. Hawks fans love him for his wry sense of humor and undefeated social media presence. Not to mention that he can still burn opponents beyond the arc.
Last winter, as we were all stuck inside and watching NBA games in empty arenas, I noticed the veteran companion had a solid collection of rare Nike Kobe sneakers (he was also wearing many of the iconic shoes of his former teammate, Paul George, too).
Most recently, he told the Hawks’ social media team that the Nike Kobe 6 was his all-time favorite basketball shoe.. After doing some research, I found that his appreciation for Kobe Bryant goes back a long way.
Los Angeles to Tucson
Hill went to Fairfax High School, less than ten miles from the Staples Center. Through his stellar play with the Lions in the winter and the California Supreme in the summer, Hill has landed offers from top D-1 programs.
Once Hill decided to go to the University of Arizona, a Nike school since 1998, he quickly started wearing Kobes on the court. In fact, he wore several different pairs of Nike Kobe 6 in Wildcat-inspired colourways. The shoe was originally released in 2011 and reissued as a performance retro (“Protro”) in 2020.
To add insult to injury, after Bryant’s untimely death in January 2020, Nike and his estate couldn’t agree on a new deal. Just like that, one of the most popular and influential basketball sneaker lines just ended.
Still, there are legions of loyal NBA and WNBA players who wear Kobes on the court. Even the young Hawks team has a handful of players who grew up watching Bryant and want to continue his tradition of excellence. But with each passing year, the list of current NBA players who have faced Bryant is shrinking a bit.
Hill has played against Bryant twice, both times in less than a month during the 2014-15 season. Their mission was to protect each other. It was one of the few times Hill didn’t wear a Kobe that season. He later told reporters:
âYou’re talking about one of the greatest players of all time on the pitch. But I just can’t get myself into the frame of mind to sound like “Oh my God, it’s Kobe” when I have to babysit this guy. He can go out at any time and put 81 [points] on you. “- Quote from Vigilant sports
In the first game on December 15, 2014, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-91. Bryant scored 21 points in 30 minutes. Hill scored 4 points and took 7 rebounds in 28 minutes. Bryant said of Hill: “I thought he competed hard, in that he moved his feet and I thought he was playing well.”
Less than three weeks later, on Jan.4, 2015, the Lakers beat the Pacers 88-87 at Staples Center thanks to a Bryant float over Hill with 12 seconds left. The Black Mamba scored 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the victory. This time, Hill had 10 points and 4 rebounds in 36 minutes.
Bryant played four more games before tearing his right rotator cuff and missing the remaining 39 games. The Lakers and Pacers ultimately missed the playoffs that year. Additionally, Hill did not play in either of the Pacers’ two games against the Lakers during Bryant’s 2016 farewell season. Even after Bryant retired, Hill, along with Bryant’s other sidekicks, carried the torch in throwing Kobe’s before every game.
Bryant’s game and shoes are less important to Hill than he did as a family man. Read colleague Girl Dad’s quote on what Bryant meant to him as a man.
At this point in Hill’s career, his team see him more as a locker room manager. A player bridging the gap between two distinct eras in the NBA who can pass on the wisdom accumulated for nearly a decade in the league. But just because Hill comes off the bench as a role player, make no mistake, he can still light up defenders any night – especially if he’s wearing Kobes you can’t get your hands on.
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