PORTLAND, Ore. — Brian Grant was a member of one of the most polarizing teams in Blazers history and he remains a fan favorite in Rip City.
He made a living being tough. A 6'9” bruiser, he spent a dozen seasons defending some of the NBA’s all-time greats like Duncan and Shaq.
“I always loved the challenge of going against someone or something that I was supposed to lose and that's what motivated me,” Grant said.
At 46-years-old, he’s battling a greater challenge—Parkinson’s Disease.
“I was scared I didn't want people to look at me and think differently of me, but this is what I am,” said Grant. “This is what a lot of Americans are and people around the globe are, who deal with this disease.”
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, an estimated 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s. It’s been 10 years since Grant was diagnosed with Young-onset Parkinson’s Disease.
“I was an athlete all my life and I was able to control a lot of things, but this is something that is not going away. It’s something where I had to really lose my pride, my vanity because I care what other people think about me,” Grant said. “If I’m in the public eye and my meds aren’t working. I’m trying to kind of retreat from the crowd because I get uncomfortable, I don’t want them to see me like this, but I can’t control it and I have to remember that.”
It’s not just the tremors, there’s much more to the disease. He’s fought depression and memory loss, among other symptoms.
“I’m doing well, and I think it’s because, first of all, I’ve got a great deal of support around me,” Grant said. “That's really what's been the biggest difference for me as I've progressed. It's not as scary because I'm not alone.”
His kids, his family and his friends are his world. The Brian Grant Foundation has given him a greater purpose. Actor Michael J. Fox had some advice for him.
“He told me listen, there's nothing that says you have to make this public, but if you do decide to, do it all the way,” he said. Make sure that you're making a difference.”
His first ‘Shake it Till You Make it Gala’ in 2010 is something he’ll never forget. Fox and Muhammad Ali were among the celebrities who attended the event.
“I would put that under the top things, events, that happened in Portland--under the ‘77 championship of course,” said Grant. “It was a magical night. You try and repeat it, but you just can’t. There’s no way.”
He also got a call from an old rival, Hall of Fame power forward Karl Malone. They shared some heated moments, like the 1999 Western Conference Finals when Malone elbowed Grant in the face.
“After that game, he did an interview and he was very adamant about the way he felt about our playing,” said Grant. “When I got back to Portland, I was just thinking, I’m going to say this and I’m going to say that. They asked me what I thought about Karl. I said the guy is my idol, I look up to him, I pattern my game after him. I heard he’s an outdoorsman, hopefully, one day we can go fishing.”
Eventually, they did.
That fishing trip raised $107,000 for his foundation.
“We really got to know each other, and we got to talk about what happened. He told me, ‘I always respected you from the time you got into the league because I’ve given you quite a few shots. You always shook my hand and said congratulations and I admired that about you.’ It felt good.”