Former NBA player Brian Grant joins Michael Scotto on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast. Grant and Scotto discussed stories behind the scenes with Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Rasheed Wallace, and guarding Shaquille O’Neal. The duo also discussed Grant’s new book, Rebound, detailing his battle with depression, Parkinson’s disease, and more. For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.
:55 Breaking the news to Grant that LaMarcus Aldridge retired
3:15 What inspired you to write this book?
Grant: I wasn’t one person that thought that he was going to even go to college. I almost didn’t graduate from high school and just the story of overcoming that. Then, going to college and overcoming that. Going to a draft camp as a second-rounder or overseas player and playing myself into the lottery. It just was a good story. But I didn’t want to just write the story on that. I wanted to make sure I gave the whole complete and entire story. Once I was comfortable with doing that, that’s when I started to look for someone to help me kind of put my story down on paper.
5:25 What was it like for you to learn you had Parkinson’s and how have you dealt with it since?
Grant: The first person to tell me I had Parkinson’s was a good friend and my doctor. We were on a flight from Portland because I had to check on my house and he came with me. I was explaining to him what I thought it was. He finally just grabbed my hand and said, “Brother, I’m going to tell you that you have Parkinson’s.” I was kind of pissed off. I’m like how are you going to say that to me? That’s the worst thing that it could be in my eyes. In hindsight, he was absolutely right. It wasn’t until 2008 or 2009 that I got the official diagnosis from OHSU. Dealing with that in itself for anybody is going to be tough. I look at my journey and it was pretty tough because I’ve been used to having all these surgeries and things to correct stuff within my body if something goes wrong. Now, I have something that a surgery is not going to cure. I’m in a battle that I can fight and keep battling, and I’m going to, but eventually, I’m going to lose the battle with Parkinson’s unless there’s a cure. It’s a different mindset. I can’t go in there being Brian Grant battling Karl Malone and Shaq because I’ll take an L and then it’ll take me down.
7:25 What have you learned from having Parkinson’s for those who are listening that are also dealing with it that can help them moving forward?
Grant: Stay active. We just went through a pandemic where we were shacked up for almost a year and a half. I wasn’t very active, even though I have little weights outside and a little exercise bike upstairs. It was an excuse to be lazy. I really saw my progression speed up and my kids saw it too. They’re like, “Dad, you’re shaking a little more than usual or I notice you’re forgetting things a lot more.” That’s all because I was sitting around idling instead of doing things to keep my brain sharp and keep my body moving. Parkinson’s wants to shut you down. You’re only helping it if you’re on the couch.
To any of you out there suffering with this disease, or you’re a caregiver, or you’re a friend of someone who’s suffering, the main thing you can do is encourage them to get up. I’m not saying they’ve got to get up and run a marathon. Maybe it’s just walking through the house or the street. Some weights. Just keep moving and staying active.
9:15 What was it like dealing with depression during that time?
Grant: When I was in my last year in Phoenix, Vinny Del Negro was there doing commentating, and he sat me down and said, “Brian, I know you’re getting ready to retire. I just want to tell you that there’s not enough fishing, golf, or hunting in the world to keep you occupied. We all go through some forms of depression.” Of course, when I retired and I went into a deep dark place, I thought maybe this was depression, but I’m not going to admit it because I was always a person that looked at someone who was depressed and said, “They’re just being weak-minded. How is it that you don’t want to go outside and enjoy this beautiful world?” Until it hit me. When it hit me, I couldn’t do anything. I was paralyzed, and my whole frame of thought changed. I put my wife through hell and my kids through hell. It wasn’t until six months after really wrecking things that I went in, and I was diagnosed with clinical depression, which more than likely was brought on by the fact that I had already lost 80 percent of the cells that produce dopamine. They put me on Zoloft, and I started seeing a psychologist, which really helped.
12:20 How would you describe your book to readers that’ll look into it?
14:05 Others who spoke to Grant about potential depression in retirement
16:00 What stuck out to you about your first three seasons in the league with the Sacramento Kings?
Grant: I had the best vets. It was Duane Causwell and Walt Williams. We had Lionel Simmons who was a big talker and Bobby Hurley. We used to go over to Walt’s house and shoot dice on his pool table. I remember a lot of money being out there. It never failed that Olden Polynice and Bobby Hurley would always get into an argument. Bobby would say, “Hold on. I called a hard four.” It was some of the funniest stuff I saw because Bobby’s all little and short and there’s OP. Bobby would run, jump on the pool table like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler going right at him. If I would’ve gotten drafted anywhere else, I don’t know how my career would’ve gone because it was a small city, great fans, it was the only game in town, and it was a good fit.
20:00 After Sacramento, you went to Portland and had a really good frontcourt with Rasheed Wallace, Arvydas Sabonis, and a young Jermaine O’Neal. What stuck out to you about those years with the Portland Trail Blazers?
Grant: If you went down, there was definitely somebody who could replace you. That was what happened to me after my second year. I had a microfracture repair and lost my starting position, which I was ok with because we were doing really well. That team was just funny. There was something exciting happening every day, whether it was a fight or just hanging out.
22:10 Do you have any funny Rasheed Wallace stories?
Grant: You didn’t have to worry about hearing some fake sh*t from him. He was going to tell you how he felt. One of the funniest things for me was I got used to him cursing out the ref. Watching refs literally run from him like I don’t want to deal with this guy. I don’t want to throw him out, but I don’t want to deal with him. His trademark is “Ball don’t lie!” This one time, he actually got hammered on this one, and they swallowed the whistle, and he said, “You’re not going to call that? Effing cheaters!” When he said that, I had to laugh because he was red hot looking at the guy clenching his fist.
Dependable. Absolutely. When he took the floor, he could have a sprained ankle and still give you 30 or 35 points. He was super talented. It was hard for him when I got there because Mike Dunleavy put me in the starting lineup, and he got moved from the four to the three (position). That was a tough adjustment for him at first, and then he started stroking threes and took off.
When he was in control talking to the ref. He thinks he’s like, “Ok, but did you see that?” No expression on his face. I’m looking at him, and I’m seeing his eyes all big, and I’m like “Sheed, come on bro.” He’s like, “BG, I’m ok. I’m not yelling.” I said, “But you look crazy though.”
24:35 How were Arvydas Sabonis and Jermaine O’Neal?
Grant: Jermaine, here’s a kid who was skinny but was working on his body, getting buff, and would give me and Rasheed fits at every practice. You look at him, and I felt really sorry for the kid because he doesn’t know why he’s not playing. Mike Dunleavy was one of those people that once he trusts you to get something done, he’s going to ride with you regardless. I always felt bad for him, but I knew that when he got his opportunity, he was going to be an All-Star. That’s exactly what happened to him when he went to Indiana.
Arvydas, I figured out he knew more English than he let on. If he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t speak English around you. You’d say something around him, and he’d go, “Argh.” One time, he took me out with some of his buddies. I think we were in Secaucus to play the Nets, and I asked a question, and he started answering in English. I was like, “Sh*t. I didn’t know you could speak English that good.” He said, “I don’t like to talk to everybody.” On the court, you had to be ready because he would throw it between two guys’ legs, off the backboard, into your hand, and you’d better catch it or he’d roar.
27:30 What was it like for you guarding Shaquille O’Neal at times?
Grant: To me, it was the ultimate challenge of testing myself to throw my fears away and just go out there and try to do what I could do against this big giant man. Before I’d take the court with him, guys knew not to mess with me because I was conjuring up stuff like, “He wants to get my wife or he’s talking about momma B.” Young Shaq that played on Orlando, there was nothing you could do about that because he was lean and quick.
31:15 What happened on the Kobe Bryant to Shaq lob in the 2000 Western Conference Finals?
33:00 You then went to Miami for four years. What were those four years like for you and what did you take away from the experience?
Grant: They were a first-class organization that did any and everything for their players. There was one man that was in control under ownership, of course, and you did it his way or you were gone, and that was Pat Riley. I enjoyed that because I had come from a place where it was fun and everything, but it could be volatile a lot of the time. I was playing for a guy who knew exactly what he wanted, and he’ll tell me exactly what he wants and he’s happy. I thought college was the hardest work I ever put in with all the conditioning and stuff, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you went through with Pat when he was still at the helm. I left Portland and I was 267. By the time the season started, I was 248. The experience was great. It didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Alonzo Mourning went down with his kidney ailment. We had a couple of horrible years. I got the blessing of being there with a young Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade. I knew Dwyane was going to blossom into the superstar he was, and I knew Udonis was going to be a reliable piece to the Heat, and he’s still there. When I got traded, I understood that too. I think the team we put together with Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, myself, Eddie Jones, and Wade was a good team and maybe two or three years away from being a championship contender. Bringing Shaq in instantly gave them a chance to win a championship.
36:50 When did you know Dwyane Wade was going to be a star?
Grant: I realized he had an attitude to win and conquer. Every time he got the ball, he went to the hole… There were a couple of games where he had some crazy moves and took off, and I knew he could jump, but it was almost Jordan-esque the way he got up so quick and dunked it.
38:05 How did you find out about getting traded for Shaq and what went through your mind?
Grant: What I found out on ESPN was that Shaq wanted to leave LA, they were looking to move him, and there were two places he’d go to, Dallas and Miami. I was like, “Gina, get your sh*t. We’re gone. We’re going to get traded.” She said, “Not necessarily.” I said, “We’re going to get traded.” Sure enough, I was in Ohio still when Shaq decided to go to Miami, and so they made the trade. Of course, I didn’t want to leave, and I was hurt from that standpoint, but from the other standpoint, I got it. It was a great move, and the organization was so good to me and my family. I appreciated it. I had a relationship with Pat Riley still, and he wrote me this really nice letter in an envelope. He didn’t have to do that. It was a great letter and gave me confidence moving forward to go to LA. There was a card in there that he called the forever card. You’ll forever be a friend, and I always have a place in Miami.
40:55 What was it like for you playing with Kobe Bryant and did you have any memorable interactions with him that stuck out to you?
Grant: We were lifting weights and I’m doing lat pulldowns. I left maybe five or six plates off. I did the rest of the rack like two times. Kobe goes, “Oh man, that’s pretty strong. You did all that? Let me try.” He puts the entire weight rack and does it five times. He’d be the first one to practice and the last one to leave. He’s so super competitive.
44:02 What was the last year of your career with the Phoenix Suns like with Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion?
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto