Saturday, 1 October 2011

HEART & SOUL-An Interview With Brian Grant

Where inspiration happens.

By Tim David Harvey

This is the story of a player who deserves ink not just because of the tragic circumstances that he has endured, but because of his heroic contributions on and off the court. From his perfect play on the basketball floor to his influential inspiration off it, bringing positivity to others in the face of negativity. This is the story of 'The General', who has shown us how true a warrior he really is.

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 centre when called on for duty) he spins around Shaquille O'Neal and forces his way inside for two points. Just a pair of points on the box score for the Portland Trail Blazers, but an energy boost and statement to Shaq's Lakers that Richard Pryor would be proud of, 'We aint dead yet'! This player and his team was no joke. Back in 2000 the Lakers may have had Shaq and Kobe and an almost clear run to the championship but the Trailblazers had the on the ropes along with enthusiasm, hustle and heart and nobody epitomised 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. Just like Fox said Brian's got "the broadest shoulders", whatever the load. Brian Grant was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's Disease in 2008 at just 36 years of age. Did you know this disease can effect people as young as 18? Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disorder that is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. This dopamine is what makes the muscles in the human body move with coordination. Sadly there is still no cure for this disease.

Still, never discouraged in the face of tragedy, Brian Grant continued his already incredible and generous charity work by setting up the 'Brian Grant Foundation' in order to help raise awareness of this disease and help fellow sufferers. Following this has come the 'Shake It Till We Make It' benefit and the step, by, step, helpful new website, that provides fellow patients with all the information and inspiration they need. The former fourth position player is going forth and front and centre once again with even more power and inspiration. Just four years after his diagnosis he is already doing so much...for others.

Q: Brian, thank you for your generous time in your incredibly busy schedule, it is appreciated just like the inspiration you give. How is everything with you and the 'Brian Grant Foundation going? We wish you well.

BRIAN GRANT: Thank you - things are going well. We've only completed one full year in with my new foundation, but we've already launched our website and we're moving ahead with its development.

Q: Can you tell us more about your new website ''? It is a very positive and direct aid to patients and their families. How did this new website come about?

BRIAN GRANT: When I was diagnosed, I didn't know where to find information that would help me answer the question, "What now?" I knew I had Parkinson's, but I didn't know what was going to happen to me and what my options were to live day to day with the disease. All the websites I looked at just flat out scared me. Our website is designed to be a place of comfort where people can get their questions answered and actually see (through video) other people like them that are experiencing similar issues.

Q: You spread a very positive message of Parkinson's being something that is part of your life but doesn't have to be a part of your life. How important is it to spread this way of thinking to those suffering, especially those who suffer depression too?

BRIAN GRANT: For me, depression is the worst symptom. It comes and goes, but when it comes on, it's very difficult to control. I think 85% of Parkinson's patients suffer from it, and it can be very debilitating, especially because it's hard to get up and go when you just feel like staying in bed. Yet, we know that getting up and doing some form of movement or exercise is the very best treatment for this disease. Hopefully, our website can encourage people to know that they're not alone.

Q: We love what your doing with the 'Shake It Till We Make It' benefit. How was this year for you and what are among your favourite fundraising events?

BRIAN GRANT: Shake It Till We Make It is our signature event for Portland, Oregon – where I live. Once again, the community really supported us and we were happy to have so many really great people come out to our beautiful city. This year's event was much more focused on showing people what it's like to live with Parkinson's, and I am grateful for the many friends who participated.

Q: Congratulations on the 'Celebrity Gala', 'Army Events' and 'Golf Challenge', How's Charles Barkley's Golf swing?

BRIAN GRANT: Charles swing may not look good, but he's still a lot more consistent than me, so I can't criticize the man. I'm just grateful that he's willing to come out and enjoy our hospitality and laugh with a lot of our guests. He really makes it fun. I'm also grateful for the support of other NBA Greats, such as George Gervin, Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Jim Jackson, Terry Porter, Chris Mullin, Nate McMillan and many others. These guys being here makes it a great event.

Q: What forthcoming events are on your foundations calendar?

BRIAN GRANT: We have an event coming up in Missoula, Montana that is being held by a special friend of the Foundation, Hadley Ferguson. She is a wonderful artist who also has PD and is only in her mid-30's. We're looking forward to visiting her home town and supporting her efforts to "power forward." If people are interested, they can learn more at Also, we're planning an event next spring in Cincinnati, with the University of Cincinnati's Neurological Center. The Gardner Family, who gave the money to start that center are partnering with us to do an event there. It's scheduled for April 14, 2012. Visit for more details.

Q: I had the pleasure of meeting your good friend Raphael Saadiq this year at a show in London. How is he and other friends and family of yours helping with your foundation and your own personal inspiration?

BRIAN GRANT: One of the most important ways that my friends help me is simply by encouraging me to keep going. Everyone who has this disease needs a community of people around them to encourage them, and that is what Ray does for me. My family is also a huge source of support for me. They are really my caregivers. All my kids, my mom, my aunt, and special friends are there to make sure that I'm doing okay; sticking to my diet and exercise and trying to stay positive. It's hard sometimes, and everyone needs that support network around them. That's why Powering Forward will grow. It will become that hub for the Parkinson's community. It will take time to get there, but we'll get there.

Q: You have been inspired and motivated by fellow Parkinson's Disease sufferers Muhammed Ali and Michael J. Fox and them by you. Can you tell us more about your relationship with these great men and the power that there and your celebrity has on creating a positive influence on raising awareness and unity?

BRIAN GRANT: The greatest thing is just knowing that we're all in this together. Michael's foundation will find a cure someday. Muhammad's center in Phoenix is an unbelievable resource for patients in that area who are very progressed with the disease. Hopefully our website will be the place that people can come to find out what's happening and what they can do NOW to live with this disease UNTIL THERE IS A CURE. I'm honored to be in this fight with those two great men, and I just hope that our niche will be a great resource for people

Q: Entertainment and media when used the right way can be real important and over the years from Don Cheadle's guest star in the T.V. show 'ER' to last years hit movie 'Love & Other Drugs' the issue of this disease has been raised and tackled with. How important is it that mainstream media continues to do this?

BRIAN GRANT: I think mainstream media has no choice because these issues are truly affecting the population more and more all the time. Especially as the baby boomers age, many diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are becoming more common. Media stays relevant by imitating what is relevant in our society. We'll see a lot more of it.

Q: You have been inspired and influenced by your own idol Bob Marley throughout your life, what can you draw from that late, great legends words of wisdom in your personal battle?

BRIAN GRANT: I think finding peace within ourselves, whatever ails us, is the ultimate lesson.

Q: Well done and played with everything, truly. Can you tell us more about turning the negativity of this disease into a positive inspiration and message of hope for fellow sufferers?

BRIAN GRANT: I'm not always positive, but I know I feel a lot better about my situation on the days that I am able to be positive. We all suffer from that, no matter who we are. Powering Forward can become a mantra for everyone; not just Parkinson's patients. It's a mindset that will help people get up and keep moving.

Q: Let's talk basketball for a second. Congratulations on your jersey retirement. That must of been a real proud moment? Deserved too, what a career?

BRIAN GRANT: Thank you.

Q: Can you share with us some of your favourite NBA memories? You and Portland had a great team and time?

BRIAN GRANT: Battling Karl Malone always comes to the forefront for me. Karl and I had some great moments on the court. But this past summer, we had a great time together fishing in Alaska. A very generous donor had purchased the item at our Shake It Till We Make It auction, to go fishing with Karl and I. Not only did we all catch a huge amount of fish, but we laughed and enjoyed each other's company so much. Karl's a great guy, and I really appreciate his support.

Q: You really brought the Heat with Miami and you seemed to have developed an incredible relationship with Pat Riley. How was South Beach?

BRIAN GRANT: Pat was by far the greatest coach I ever had. I wanted to work so hard for him because I knew that he respected me for it. We have a special friendship, and I know that he's always there for me. I am forever grateful for the time I spent with the Heat and the lessons I learned from Pat and the support he continues to give me.

Q: As a Laker fan I was always worried about you and wanted you on our team and then I got my wish, what was it like to play out your final years at a high-level with some top teams?

BRIAN GRANT: I'm amazed at how many people remember me as a Laker, since I didn't see a lot of playing time there. I enjoyed playing with Kobe when I was with the Lakers, and then with Steve Nash when I was with Phoenix in my final year. I have a lot of respect for their work ethic and for what they've done for the game.

Q: What are your current thoughts about the NBA and the guys/teams you used to play with?

BRIAN GRANT: I went through a lockout during my first year in Portland and I remember just wanting to play.

Q: I believe that it's the great parts of your personality, like your passion, dedication and hard-work that have made you such a great player and inspiration to those suffering from Parkinson's disease. How do you draw strength from within and help others especially in times of personal difficulty?

BRIAN GRANT: I rely on my family and friends and I try to stay focused on our Foundation's mission. Believe me, I have my days where it's really difficult and I feel sorry for myself just like everyone else does. But having something to do that's meaningful, like raising my kids, working with our Foundation team, and being involved keeps me going.

Q: What advice can you offer to those suffering out there, those with family with Parkinson's or those looking to help?

BRIAN GRANT: First of all, please share your experiences with us through . The site can only grow with your help. We want to help caregivers and family members as much as the patients themselves. All of us are in this together and we have to support one another. Second, please stay active, both with your mind and your body. Eat well and try to get some form of exercise every day. Third, become an advocate for your own care. Educate yourself about the options that are out there, which hopefully our site can help you do. Through trial and error you will find what works for you. Just don't give up. Surround yourself with people that will help you power forward!

Q: Michael J. Fox told you if you went public then it would be your "responsibility" raising awareness of this disease and you have talked about the "deep calling". You two have already done so much that everyone's is grateful for. How do the two of you plan to continue as you keep moving forward and forward?

BRIAN GRANT: I'm not sure, but I think we each have a responsibility to follow our calling. His is research; mine is living TODAY with Parkinson's until that cure is found. My hope is to continue to work in tandem with one another because both our missions are equally important to those with Parkinson’s.

Q: Brian thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it very much, its an honour. We wish you all the best health and happiness and success for your foundation. Is there any closing thoughts you'd like to share with the people?

BRIAN GRANT: Thanks for this opportunity because articles like this will raise awareness for this disease and hopefully educate people who are suffering about how they can live a better life with Parkinson's.

Brian Grant really has given everything to everything. Like his all to every team he played for from the Sacramento Kings to the Los Angeles Lakers. From being amongst the scoring and rebounding leaders for his college career at Xavier his play has been excellent and jersey retirement worthy. 'The General' has undertook any task given to him, whatever the role. Whether it be being the best backup in Phoenix or the prime time big plays from Portland to Miami. You could always find Brian 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 idol 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. Still it's his own depression beating, head high inner strength that will drive him forward with all its power.

This is why the same man who has had to deal with the shock of having young-onset Parkinson's since such an early age is not just solely focused on himself but has started all sorts of campaigns to raise the awareness of Parkinson's disease for a foundation of support and inspiration for all in need. This is a man who-without fear-stands face to face with any opponent whether they are more intimidating like Karl Malone (Grant sent back the Mailman's deliveries like a barking dog), much bigger like Shaquille O'Neal, (he almost took down Goliath with his 'David' Portland team) or a disease as crippling as Parkinson's.

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 wont beat him, or the other million plus sufferers in the United States alone who face it.

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 (just ask close friend Pat Riley), 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. One of the West's best in recent decades, Brian went from being one of the Lakers worst opponents to face to one of their best role-players to place.

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 from his big dunks in Portland to his big shots in Miami. 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. He the heart and soul of his teams and now he's that the backbone and more to this fight and hope against Parkinson's disease. It's Brian's hard working, never one, never give up, always give something more attitude that still carries today. In his darkest hour he's still that same man, bringing light over the years to his life and others. 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. Thank you.

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