Ernie Grunfeld Rumors
The opening pages of Dan Grunfeld’s “By the Grace of the Game,” are difficult to read. The subtitle “The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream” gives some indication of the tragedy and sadness within the pages. A few chapters in, Grunfeld, the son of longtime NBA player and executive Ernie Grunfeld, spells out the atrocities: His paternal grandmother, Livia, who Dan calls Anyu, which translates to mother in her native Hungarian, lost both her parents and three siblings at Auschwitz and another of her sibling’s died in labor camp in Ukraine during World War II.
Other relatives were also killed. And yet, his grandmother somehow finds light amid the darkness, had a son (Ernie) who came to America not knowing English and became the first NBA player whose parents were Holocaust survivors. “My grandmother always said just because a story is difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it,” Grunfeld told USA TODAY Sports. “It was hard. It’s hard to think about these things happening to anybody let alone to your family. For my dad, these were his grandparents who were killed in Auschwitz. For my grandmother, these are her parents and siblings.
Q: Not a lot of people knew the entire story of your dad’s background. Dan Grunfeld: “It’s not something my dad has ever concealed. It’s known. They did a “30 For 30” on him and Bernard. It’s in there – Ernie Grunfeld is the son of Holocaust survivors. In the book, you’ll see his journey. Basketball came out of nowhere and changed the trajectory of my family, and it gave my dad a new life in America. There’s never been a reason to look back much on all these painful things. It’s a hard history. He never had grandparents. They were all killed in the Holocaust. That’s very difficult stuff, so on a human level, you empathize with that. I talk a lot in my book about privilege. I’m privileged in many ways, and one of them is that I have a generation of separation from that tragedy. I can write about it with some distance. My dad never had that luxury. He was so close to it. There has been some catharsis in certain ways (for my dad). It’ll never be easy, for anyone, myself included. Again, I go back to my grandma. Just because stories are difficult doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be told. I think certainly everyone in my family is happy I told it.”
30 Nov 21
“Just because something’s improbable doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” insists Dan Grunfeld, who has authored a powerful multigenerational saga that serves as proof. In “By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream,” the son of former NBA star and front-office executive Ernie Grunfeld shares the incredible story of his family’s journey from Auschwitz to New York City, the Olympics and pro basketball fame.
Ernie became a college legend at the University of Tennessee and won gold at the 1976 Summer Games. He went on to be a standout player for the New York Knicks, and later, the president and general manager of the team during its 1990s glory days. He’s the only player in NBA history whose parents survived the Holocaust.
Durant, on the other hand, would entertain Gortat’s half-joking recruitment attempts whenever the Thunder came to the District. “I was helping. I was helping (general manager) Tommy (Sheppard), I was helping (former general manager) Ernie (Grunfeld). It was the time everyone was talking about KD, obviously later he signed with Golden State, but hey, everybody was trying to get KD. I was like let me help out,” Gortat said. “Obviously it was more of a joke for me, I don’t have any power to convince KD to come to play for Washington, but I was doing my part. I was being me, I was fooling around.”