Brian Grant is a physical specimen. He was and he still is. During 12 years as an NBA player, he stood 6’9” and weighed 254 pounds. He served his role as a punishing player, a rebounder, an inside presence. He was a man among men.
In 2006, Grant retired. Depression soon followed.
“I wasn’t the type of person that thought could get depressed, but I had a slight tremor in my finger and I didn’t know what it was,” Grant recently told Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner during the channel’s “Chevron Human Energy” series.
Grant moved to Portland, Ore., where he spent three seasons playing for the Trailblazers. Not long thereafter, he was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease. He was 36 at the time.
“What do I do now?” Grant asked himself. “I knew that things would get progressively worse in time.”
After months of deciding whether to take his condition public, Grant received a phone call from actor Michael J. Fox, who behind Muhammad Ali is perhaps the most notable person afflicted with this disease.
Fox told him what he could expect going forward. He also offered him encouragement: He could fight for a cure and make the most of his life or sit back and let Parkinson’s conquer him.
Grant immediately felt compelled to take action. He formed his own foundation and earlier this year hosted the “Shake It Till We Make It” gala, joining forces with Team Fox.
With celebrity friends in attendance, fellow Parkinson’s patients, and of course, Grant and Fox, the actor took to the microphone and gave a brilliant analogy on what living with the disease must be like.
“It’s like you’re in the middle of the road, in concrete boots and you can hear the bus coming,” he said. “We’re trying to change the direction of the bus.”
On Day 2 of the festivities, Pumpkin Ridge’s private Witch Hollow Course played host to a golf event. Co-founder Barney Hyde, who also suffers from Parkinson’s disease, offered to host the event for free.
“He [Grant] and I have nothing in common, in so many ways, and yet when we met there was just this bond,” Hyde said. “The connection out here today with Brian is more than just golf, it’s something special.”
With many of Grant’s basketball buddies competing, the swings were wretched at times, but the times were fun, the money raised significant and it proved another great way to keep the movement in the public’s eye.
“We shake, we tremble, but we still have to live life,” Grant said.
And he, Fox, Hyde and everyone associated with this event proved that the only way to live life with this disease it to meet it head on.