Friday, 5 August 2011
Where inspiration happens.
By Tim David Harvey
This is the story of two players who deserve ink not just because of the tragic circumstances that they have endured but because of their heroic contributions to the game of basketball.
Those famous dreadlocks are whipping emphatically as he enters the paint, and just like his game his style can't be tamed. He bounces the ball at the baseline with authority, but also with grace, (the kind of grace that only comes from those 6,9, 254 pound power forwards who can also play center) he spins around Shaquille O'Neal and forces his way inside for 2 points. Just a pair of points on the box score for the Portland Trail Blazers, but an energy boost and a statement to Shaq's Lakers that Richard Pryor would be proud of, 'We aint dead yet'! Back in 2000 the Lakers may have had Shaq and Kobe and an almost clear run to the championship but the Trailblazers had enthusiasm, hustle and heart and nobody epitomized those characteristics on the Blazers roster more than Brian Grant did.
That's why you know that even in his current tragic situation he will fight through, just like Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali and countless other strong willed Parkinson disease fighters. He's spent his whole life being a strong, courageous guy and although are thoughts have been with him in this terribly testing time we know that there aren't many out there as heroic as he is.
Giving his all to every team he played for from the Sacramento Kings to the Los Angeles Lakers. Doing the little things on the court in a big way, with a soul almighty like his inspiration the late Bob Marley, pardon me the great Bob Marley. Like his inspiration Brian Grant will not be put down, he will 'light up the darkness' and with support from another musical icon, his best friend Raphael Saadiq, B. Grant has all the best people behind him, but it's his own depression beating, head high inner strength that will drive him forward. This is why the same man who has had to deal with the shock of having young-onset Parkinson's since the young age of 37 is not just solely focused on himself but has started all sorts of campaigns to raise the awareness of Parkinson's disease like his 'Shake It Till We Make It' foundation. This is a man who-without fear-stands face to face with any opponent whether they are more skilled like Chris Webber, much bigger like Shaquille O'Neal, or a disease as crippling as this.
He never backed down from an almost impossible challenge and he will face down this opponent. He is not the type of man that lies down and takes it. This is why the aptly nicknamed 'General' is taking charge of this disease, changing his diet and even his daily routines including the toothpaste he uses to try and reduce these tremors. He wants to master this disease and control his body that he has conditioned over his career to deal with the trees of the Western Conference forest. With the advice of Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox and the support of his loved ones he's making sure this disease to beat him.
A few years back when Grant was interviewed about his announcement of the disorder, (despite the clear emotion that comes with an ordeal like this) he possessed the spirit of a warrior and still looked like the same man who wowed the Rose Garden with his hustle plays and thunderous dunks many seasons past. In his home, next to a portrait of Bob Marley proudly hangs a jersey from each of the teams Grant has suited up and gone to battle for. As proud as Brian is to have played for these teams, these teams are all proud that Brian was once a vital part of their unit. A real promising start in Sacramento, a warrior at his peak and a major contributor in Portland, a career year in Miami, a big, emotionally charged contributor on a Los Angeles Lakers roster that back then so desperately needed one and a continuing of that irreplaceable, invaluable blue collar work in Phoenix.
Whether it be making the All-Rookie first team in 94-95, or his great rebounding and field goal percentages, Brian Grant had the facts and figures to back up the great things that are said about him. Still, however it's the immeasurable amount of energy that he brought to the teams he played for and the amount of heart that could never be quantified that made him the player, pardon me the man he was in the league. It's the attitude that still carries today, in his darkest hour he's still that same man. As he puts it best, his way of dealing with this disease is simple, "Just me believing in a positive spirit will take me farther in the long run". You know these words are as strong and true as his contributions to the game of basketball. We wish you all the best Brian.
Let's not forget that another recently retired, top 10 lottery pick player and great contributor to the NBA suffered a devastating tragedy himself. In early December 2008 Rodney Rogers was thrown from an ATV he was riding in North Carolina. This terrible accident has resulted in Rodney being paralyzed from the waist down. This is a tragic, devastating thing to happen to anybody let alone a former athlete. Just like Brian Grant, Rogers now has to come to terms with the fact that the same physical gifts and athletic talent that spearheaded a very successful NBA career will no longer be the same. Still, however also just like Brian Grant, Rodney Rogers isn't going to be giving up despite this terrible adversity.
How can we tell this? How about because this man, who clocked out of the NBA after 12 seasons and without the need to earn another penny, did not just sit back and get lazy. He took a job with the Durham's Public Works Department in North Carolina. So after completing his basketball dream Rodney dedicated his time to public service when he didn't have to. Just like Brian Grant this man doesn't give up, he's a warrior too. Michael Balzarano said it best about Rodney's contribution to his new trade, "I didn't even know he had lots of money. He is very friendly, very concerned, very conscientious. We chose him because of his ethics and his attitude. He was highly motivated." Listen to the words Michael uses, 'concerned', 'ethics', 'motivated', this speaks volumes of Rodney's character; these are the characteristics of a true warrior.
Rodney Rogers was no pushover on the NBA court either. Although again like Brian Grant, Rogers was a bit of a journeyman, his career is not defined by the number of teams he played for but by the impact he made and the contributions he gave to the teams he played for. The Nuggets, the Clippers, the Suns, the Celtics, the Nets, the Hornets and the Sixers all benefited greatly from Rodney's presence, even though the Clippers was the only team that Rogers spent more than three years with. This guy was a sparkplug off the bench, a scorer in bunches and a guy that made big plays when his number was called. He was ready to go, shoot and score even straight off the bench just like other invaluable bench mob players of his time including Robert Horry and Walter McCarthy. These priceless contributions did not go unnoticed as during his time in Phoenix Rodney Rogers was named the NBA 'Sixth Man of the Year' in the year 2000.
To put it simply Rodney Rogers made big plays and big things happen to any team he played for. Rogers was part of that 1994, eight seeded Denver Nuggets team who shocked the top seeded Seattle Supersonics by knocking them out of the playoffs, the first time that happened in NBA playoff history. Rodney also that year hit three, three pointers in 9 seconds against the Utah Jazz. These are the plays that epitomize the player he is. He was able to light it up and fill up the scoreboard in seconds. Nine points in as many a second, most bench players burn through nine minutes and barely make a point. Rodney made exclamations.
Years later came the 13.8 points per game, jump-shooting, spark-plug, 'Sixth Man of the Year' time at Phoenix where Rodney would become an NBA household name. Again his contributions where key to his teams successes. This is what has come natural to Rodney throughout his 12 year career. Now though a man who is naturally active, now faces a life where it's going to be almost impossible for him to continue doing the things he's loved and more importantly, even the more routine things in life. Then again if there's one thing we've learnt about Rodney during his basketball and professional career after the NBA it's that he too does not give up.
Like he said after the accident he didn't go to a nursing home, he insisted "I'm going to my own home". Telling an audience at his former alma-mater Wake Forest Rodney's displayed courage and inspiration throughout all his lifes troubles, beginning with his hard childhood and through his latest tragedy. remaining as strong as ever however, Rodney reaffirms, "You just have to keep fighting." Rogers makes what he has counts, he is motivated and he works to better himself and those around him. His situation is truly tragic but to better his life this man WILL find a way. We wish you all the best Rodney.
One thing we know about both these guys is that they weren't just your average NBA journeyman, role players. They were exciting, tough, team motivating, big time contributors and warriors for all the ballclub's they played for. True warriors are exactly the same off the basketball court too. True warriors fight, inspire and never give up. True warriors prevail. Your witnessing this.