Young Success

NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill on the downsides of becoming a young multi-millionaire: 'Be cautious about your inner circle'

Basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Grant Hill knows that there are pros and cons to being a 21-year-old multi-millionaire.

Hill, a Basketball Hall of Famer and seven-time NBA All-Star, made $2.75 million in 1994, his rookie year with the Detroit Pistons. He quickly had to reckon with an unexpected challenge: paranoia. "I wanted to make sure that I had that money 20 years later," Hill, now 49, tells CNBC Make It.

Over the course of his career, Hill earned more than $141 million, before retiring in 2013. From the beginning, he says, he kept himself on a budget and took time to really learn about money. His goal was to remain financially conservative and avoid getting "too wrapped in the trappings of success."

For the most part, he says, he was successful — though he acknowledges making the occasional mistake along the way. But when you make lots of money at a young age, Hill says, your relationships with the people around you can change. And Hill says he lost some friendships after making it to the NBA, often because people's expectations of him changed once he had money.

That caused him to feel a new sense of guilt. "Sometimes, I think athletes may struggle with guilt that they made it, and maybe those around them didn't," he says. Often, he adds, that leads to feeling an "obligation to take care" of your friends who don't make as much as you do.

His advice, almost two decades later: "You can't necessarily take everyone with you where you are destined to go."

Today, Hill remains involved in basketball: He's a sports broadcaster, co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks and prostate cancer advocate through Start Strong, an initiative by biotech company Dendreon. When he talks to rookies, he tells them to manage their friendships, set boundaries as early as possible and stay smart and vigilant about their money.

"Be cautious about your inner circle," Hill says. "You are naturally going to be skeptical of new people, but the people who have been in your life are the ones that sometimes can get tricky."

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