Grant Hill claps back:

In his garbled but sweeping comment that "Duke only recruits black Uncle Toms," Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today. And, I wonder if I would have suggested to former Detroit Pistons GM Rick Sund to keep Jimmy King on the team if I had known, back then in the mid-90s, that he would call me a bitch on a nationally televised show in 2011. 

I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children. They remain committed to each other after more than 40 years and to my wife, Tamia, our children, and me. They are my role models and always will be.

In moments like these, it's always worth revisiting the original statement:

For me, Duke was personal. I hated Duke and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms." 

I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family, congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hilary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL, is a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn't know.

I don't find this garbled, or sweeping at all. Indeed, I find it quite clear. I think you can debate Rose's critique of Duke--which he still holds today. But it's very hard for me to read this and believe that Jalen Rose is either saying, or implying, "Grant Hill and his family are Uncle Toms." On the contrary, I think  Rose was making as much of statement about Duke, as he was about himself. Rose literally says "I was jealous of Grant Hill." He literally says "He came from a great black family." He literally says "I was bitter." I've heard accusations of Tomming before. Rarely have I known them to be this reflective. 

With that said, I do not think Hill's response should be dismissed. He goes to great lengths to detail his family's own long hard struggle toward prosperity. Reading through that, it occurred to me that this almost certainly was not the first time he'd been accused of Tomming, or acting white, or some variant. It's worth watching the clip above, because at the end Rose basically confesses to doing exactly that. I think if there was some history of people interrogating and attacking my identity, I wouldn't really be in the mood for parsing and nuance.

I think it's possible that Hill may not be reacting to the specific comments of today, but a litany of similar comments over the years, some of which seem to have been lobbed by Rose himself. Were I Rose, I like to think I'd give some thought to what I'd said in the past to people like Hill, and what other players around me had said. The ability to analyze your errors is significant. But it's a balm for you--not for others. It's likely that Grant Hill is not just looking for self-reflection, but some contrition. I can't say that's wrong.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In