Brian Grant RumorsAll NBA Players
Height: 6-9 / 2.06
Weight:254 lbs. / 115.2 kg.
Height: 6-9 / 2.06
Weight:254 lbs. / 115.2 kg.
Riley and Anthony Mason had their battles, but there was also much love, which made attending Mason’s funeral last week so difficult. “When one of your players, that you coached very intensely for five years, leaves the planet before you do, it’s like one of your children,” Riley said. “It’s just very hard.” He’s been around long enough to see several other favorites—his Forever Men, from Brian Grant to Magic Johnson to Alonzo Mourning—endure serious health hardships. “When Earvin went down, we thought it was the worst,” Riley said. “When Zo went down, we thought it was the worst. When Chris, you think it’s the worst….So it really affects you.”
Damian Lillard, Miss Oregon 2014 Emma Palett and other Portland Trail Blazers players including CJ McCollum, Dorell Wright, Will Barton and Thomas Robinson were on hand at the Armory Annex building in Portland on Wednesday night to help ring in the new year and party their way into 2015. Lillard said he wanted to put on the event to have some fun on New Year’s in Portland, but also as a benefit for the Brian Grant Foundation. “I’m pretty familiar with Brian Grant,” Lillard said. “I’ve gotten to know him so I wanted to support that. I know with the Trail Blazers being the only show in town pretty much and me being one of the guys on the team I figured I could make people more interested in being a part of it and more money could be donated because of it.”
LL: What has it been like to work with and get to know Michael J. Fox through all of this? Brian Grant: He’s a very busy individual as far as his time. He’s pulled everywhere; he’s the godfather of Parkinson’s. The one time I got to spend time with him was so valuable. I was able to look at that and be encouraged to live as normal a life as possible.
LL: At this point in time, how many people recognize you first and foremost as an ex-basketball player compared to those who recognize you as a figure in the fight against Parkinson’s? BG: Here in Portland, I’m always going to be recognized as Brian Grant the basketball player. But outside of Portland, I’m looked at as the guy who works with Michael J. Fox who also has Parkinson’s. It’s definitely a legacy I want to leave, as someone who led the fight against Parkinson’s the same way Michael J. Fox did.
Remember that bitter rivalry between Trail Blazers forward Brian Grant and Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone? The face-to-face “talk” that escalated during Game 5 of the 1999 Western Conference semifinals? It took a fundraiser benefiting Grant’s fight against Parkinson’s disease, a two-day fishing trip to Alaska and years to mend, but it’s finally a thing of the past. Want proof? Check out this nice video the Blazers have released on their youtube channel:
“Life is good, man,” Grant said. “When I was first diagnosed, it was tough. I was going through a divorce and there were so many negative things going on. But this just shows that things can get better. Just because you have a disease or come down with something like Parkinson’s, you can still live an excellent life. I’m very happy right now.”
The foundation already has 2,000 participants in its programs and anticipates that number to swell to 6,000 by the end of 2014. And, if Grant has his way, that will only be a drop in the bucket. The goal is to take the focus on emotional and mental support and the programs, including the boot camp and wellness retreat, and spread them nationwide. “We’re ready to take this on the road,” Grant said. “We’re making a difference in Portland. It’s time to make a difference everywhere.”
After a widely successful year of program development and planning for the future, Brian Grant — one of the nation’s most prominent Parkinson’s patients — is eager to reveal the details at the fourth annual Shake It Till We Make It gala Saturday night at the Moda Center. The sold-out event, featuring headliners R&B singer Brian McKnight and comedian/actor Bill Bellamy, is the key fundraising arm of the Brian Grant Foundation, which has finally found its footing in the battle against Parkinson’s disease.
Shortly after that, Grant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking and difficulty with movement. The disease is best known for Muhammad Ali having it. “I’ve handled it well,’’ said Grant, whose left hand was shaking when he spoke to reporters. “That’s why I’m fanning myself (using a game program) because the tremor goes and builds up heat. I was diagnosed in ’08, but I was having symptoms back in ’06. I’ve had it for roughly seven years. But I still don’t take meds. That’s why I deal with that. Because once you start the meds, you can’t get off of them. And they give you more problems sometimes than relief. But I’m doing good. My foundation is doing good.’’
It was great to see so many of the Grant clan on hand, including Brian’s parents, an aunt and cousin, and five of his six children. They beamed as they had their photo taken together on the red carpet, dreadlocked Brian smiling biggest of all. “My kids … just seeing them come in here all dressy and looking at me and making fun of my hair … they’re proud of Dad,” Grant told me. “I’m glad I’m here taking on this fight and I’m not sitting at home saying, ‘Woe is me,’ like I did for a little while.” Grant said he is “feeling great. I have my bad days like anybody else, but for the most part, I’m there.”
During an interview, he spoke bravely about the future. As we talked, though, I could tell a wave of depression had sunk in. How could it not? Brian Grant — indestructible as a basketball player — was heading down a path he could never have dreamed of traveling. Four years later, Grant isn’t cured of Parkinson’s. His left hand, in particular, shakes. But I’m tickled to report that one of the most popular players in Trail Blazers history is making progress in a lot of areas.
Grant is trying to raise money for his charitable foundation, which gives money to support Parkinson’s disease education and research. Grant, who was diagnosed with early on-set Parkinson’s in 2008, has long been one of the most community-involved NBA players, and since his diagnosis he has worked tirelessly to help fight the disease which still has no known cure. His big event, “Shake It Till We Make It“, will take place later this summer at the Rose Garden in Portland.
Barkley, who as an employee of Turner Broadcasting was one of the few NBA-related attendees not covered by the gag order, gave countless interviews before teeing off Monday and reiterated his prediction that the 2011-12 season could be wiped out because of the lockout. He added, “I always pull for the players, but really, salaries have escalated.” But on a beautiful, cloudless summer day, the labor situation seemed very much in the background. Instead, celebrities and golfers alike focused on having a fun day to benefit a serious illness, one that the man who rallied them together will deal with the rest of his life. “As long as Brian needs me, I’m going to keep coming here,” Barkley said.
“Until the cure is found, we all have to live and deal with Parkinson’s each and every day,” Grant said Monday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, where celebrities and golfers who paid to play with them participated in the event’s golf tournament. “We’re just trying to create a place where Parkinson’s patients, as well as caregivers, can come together as a community and share their experiences, and also be a place where those who are newly diagnosed can join into that and get help to make the transition from what we perceive as normal life into the Parkinson’s world.”
Brian Grant hopes others afflicted with Parkinson’s won’t have to suffer in silence as Peterson did. On Sunday and Monday, the former Trail Blazers forward held his second annual Shake It Till We Make It fund-raising event. Organizers announced that this year’s version had raised $500,000 to battle Parkinson’s, helped by a $100,000 check a donor handed Grant at Sunday’s dinner and gala at the Rose Garden. According to event organizers, the donation was made by the family of Vivian Longdon in her memory. Part of the proceeds will help the Brian Grant Foundation run a new website, poweringforward.org, where patients and caregivers can go for inspiration and information about the day-to-day challenges of living with Parkinson’s. The disease is a brain disorder that saps a person’s ability to control his movements, often resulting in uncontrollable shaking and tremors.
The NBA lockout isn’t really posing any challenges for Brian Grant’s big fundraiser to fight Parkinson’s Disease, despite widespread reports and Internet buzz. Last summer, a few NBA players lent Grant a hand in his “Shake It Till We Make It” gala dinner and golf tournament. This year, that won’t be the case.
“We had tremendous support,” he says. “The Blazers were incredible. Kathy Calkagno sold tables. Rob Leftko at my agent’s office, Priority Sports, volunteered a lot of his time to get me in touch with the NBA, who put me in touch with a lot of the retired players. Pat Riley took one call from me and said he would be there. Charles told me he was coming and I called him to make sure the night before and he was like ‘I told you I was coming!’ It was a lot of love.”
Brian was also encouraged by others who suffered from Parkinson’s. He met many people who lived under completely different circumstances. “I saw how some of these people were living,” he explains. “They couldn’t tell anybody they had Parkinson’s because they feared losing their job. They didn’t have the means to do things. Then I thought that would be pretty selfish of me to not go out and tell the world that I have Parkinson’s when I might be able to do something as far as raise money somehow, or be a voice for those people.”
As he began to understand his condition, Brian realized that his depression was a result of Parkinson’s. “They go hand-in-hand,” he says. He began visiting with a psychiatrist three times a week. “It really helped,” he says. “It’s amazing when you can trust yourself inside to allow yourself to let it out to someone else. We as people have egos. As a basketball player, I definitely have an ego. To the point of ‘I don’t want to tell this person this. How can I trust you?’ But when you do trust them, boom it all comes out. That is one of the biggest reliefs—when it comes out. You’re not cured right then, but at least you can make sense of it and some of the answers make sense. Versus trying to tell your wife, cousin, best friend who might be like, ‘Let’s go fish and chill, that will clear it up.’”
Depression caught him by surprise. Brian had always been a positive and upbeat person. Immediately after leaving the game, he went through nine months of darkness. “The first eight months, I was in denial,” he says. “I didn’t want to believe I could be depressed. To me, depression was something that happened to people who are weak-minded. And I was wrong. It can happen to anybody. I’m talking about true depression. The kind that grips you and doesn’t let you go.” It put a major strain on his relationship with his wife Gina. “Nobody wants to live with someone who is depressed and in denial,” he explains. “The more people that love you and tell you that they can help, the angrier you get at them. Like, ‘I don’t have a damn problem!’ Finally, I went and got checked out and sure enough after 10 minutes, the doctor said, “Um, you’re heavily depressed.”
When Brian (Grant) retired in 2007, he knew something was wrong with him because he felt a little tremor in one of his fingers. He tried to ignore the movement but as more time passed, he was overtaken by depression—the tremor was beginning to derail his retirement plans. With his basketball career over, Brian had planned on making a transition into broadcasting. He was very confident that he could succeed as a commentator, similar to Charles Barkley. “I had all these expectations and I was going to try out for TNT and CNN—I had the interviews all lined up,” he says. “But it’s hard to interview when your arm is shaking and you don’t know what it is. As soon as I walked in they would have said ‘Sorry, but we just can’t have that on camera.’ “At least that’s what I thought. I missed out on a lot of TV interviews and getting to know the new Blazers because I didn’t want them to see my hand tremor. In my mind I thought they would look at me like I was weak. Like something is wrong—he’s broken.”
These days, Grant’s body does too much he doesn’t want it to do. He uses traditional, homeopathic and psychological remedies to control his depression and left hand tremor, the primary symptoms so far, both exacerbated by stress. He believes he is “holding pretty steady” physically, is “in a good place” mentally, and is optimistic about Parkinson’s cures. Yet, while he is touched by those who call him an inspiration for staying strong, “The thing is, they don’t see me 24-7. They don’t get to see my downfalls. I don’t always deal with it so well, and sometimes I get caught up, because I’m human. I don’t mind it being said but, at the same, there’s a side that knows me.”
Riley served as the featured speaker on Aug. 1, the second night of Grant’s first annual “Shake It Till We Make It!” event, with proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and with an attendance list that included Fox, Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Alonzo Mourning, Clyde Drexler and Rasheed Wallace — as well as the most famous athlete afflicted with Parkinson’s: Muhammad Ali. “An out-of-body experience,” Heat guard Eddie House, Grant’s long-time friend, said of sitting at Ali’s table.
Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease was the centerpiece of a glitzy, Hollywood-like fundraiser that benefited the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. And as everyone from Walton to Roy made their way into the sold-out event, Grant’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about his illness drew words of praise and respect from current and former NBA stars who went out of their way to attend the benefit. “Brian Grant has always stood for a hope and for a better tomorrow,” said Walton, who played center for the Blazers from 1974-78. “Now that he’s facing the biggest battle of his life, if we don’t stand tall for him, what kind of people are we? I’m proud, honored, privileged and lucky to be here tonight.”
His main goal was to let as many people as possible know that he, Fox and Ali are Parkinson’s survivors. And by having current Blazers such as Roy and Oden show up after just a single phone call, Grant felt Rip City’s full-circle pull. “I’ve got a great deal of respect for them for taking it out of their time,” Grant said. “This is their summer time. I know how my summers used to be. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to (do anything).’ But they’re here, and I’m very proud of them for that.”