Grant Hill could spend his days worrying about whether he'll ever win a championship with the ring-less Phoenix Suns.
But the staph infection that nearly killed the father of two back in 2003 is keeping the star forward busy in the off season.
His newest project?
Trying to protect kids from MRSA.
That's because the same drug-resistant bacteria that landed Hill at death's door is cropping up in schools and athletic facilities across the country.
The number of American kids hospitalized with a MRSA infection has risen ten-fold in recent years.
The superstar spoke with The Stir about his work with Clorox to raise money for Swap Me Sports, a program that provides athletic equipment to disadvantaged youth to keep them involved in sports.
The three entities are working with the Stop MRSA Now Coalition to push an initiative called Equip Them Well -- not only putting equipment in the hands of more kids but also ensuring kids have MRSA-free athletic facilities at their schools.
Hill's own MRSA infection started on his ankle.
"Scariest thing I ever experienced," he tells The Stir. "I had a lot of surgeries, I was in the hospital, and so on. To get MRSA and have your body go into shock and not know what's going on, and thinking you're going to die and having to get skin grafts ... it's a lot. It's scary. It scared me.
"Unfortunately that's what happens in a lot of cases. But fortunately I'm here to be able to talk about it. There's a lot of people who aren't as lucky."
By the numbers, more people in the US die from MRSA than AIDS. That includes kids -- between 1998 and 2008, CDC statistics reveal 374 children were killed by the staph infection.
"We know what AIDS is about, we know what AIDS can do, but we don't know a lot about MRSA," Hill says. "That's why we're here ... to talk about it and try to change that."
The trouble with kids in particular is they don't believe they can get sick; they have a sense of invincibility. And parents are willing to believe their kids can beat anything (hey, they eat dirt, right?).
But Hill has made the perfect spokesman in part because he's the prime specimen. As a seven-time NBA All-Star, he was in tip-top shape, better health than the average American. Yet he contracted a dangerous infection.
"MRSA doesn't discriminate," Hill says. "It doesn't matter what kind of shape you're in, how old you are, what color you are, what gender you are. It's around us, it's here, it's present. It's something that can affect anyone."
And that includes his kids. Daughter Myla, 8, is an active athlete and an avid hand-washer.
"She swims at school -- kind of cool, we didn't have that when I was in school -- she's in soccer, travel soccer, she did softball last year. Our life is carpooling her! But as a parent it's fun, as an athlete it's fun to watch your child," Hill says.
"But in terms of MRSA it's something that I'm very much aware of and not only do I apply it to what I do, but I make sure that she understands. I guarantee you as an 8-year-old she knows more about MRSA than most 8-year-olds."
Easier said then done? Hill is down-to-earth with his advice to other parents.
"You just stay on them," he suggests. "I don't think as a parent there's a formula, you just stay on them, and hopefully at some point they get the message. I think as parents we're pretty lucky because as an 8-year-old she's pretty responsible, but she'd HEARD this.
"She sticks to it, and she's pretty good about washing her hands and keeping clean. Not to scare her or scare anybody, but these are simple things that you can do."
So what should you be telling your kids?
- Scrub up: Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds -- the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice -- or use an alcohol-based hand rub sanitizer.
- Wipe it down: Use a disinfecting bleach solution to wipe down and disinfect hard surfaces. Make sure to use clean cloths to avoid spreading MRSA from one surface to another. (1 tablespoon of disinfecting bleach diluted in 1 quart of water.)
- Cover your cuts: Keep any nicks or wounds covered with a clean, dry bandage until healed.
- Keep to yourself: Do not share personal items, like towels or razors, that come into contact with bare skin.
- Use a barrier: Keep a towel or clothing between skin and shared equipment.
And Hill is making it doubly worth your while. He's inviting one family to Phoenix to hang out with him in the locker room after taking in a game -- but first you need to donate some used sports equipment ... and please, disinfect it first!
Does MRSA in the schools worry your family?