Blood poured down Brian Grant’s face as he squared off against the Utah Jazz’s Karl Malone after the Mailman delivered another one of his massive elbows to his fellow powerful forward in the ’99 playoffs.
The famous dreadlocks of number 44 for the Portland Trail Blazers whipped through the paint as Grant tried to contain Kobe Bryant in the 2000 Western Conference Finals. Leaving his man (and a big one at that) as the Mamba threw up his most famous alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal. 34’s eyes and arms pointed towards his son Shareef up in the crowd in disbelief and running and jumping into the arms of Derek Fisher celebration.
Brian Grant gave everything to this game. Now he gives us all the details of his journey to the hardwood and beyond the hard times off the court in his amazing autobiography, ‘Rebound: Soaring In The NBA, Battling Parkinson’s and Finding What REALLY MATTERS’. Co-wrote with Fox Sports NBA analyst Ric Bucher of ‘On The Ball’ podcast fame who helped Yao Ming author his ‘A Life In Two Worlds’ memoir and with a powerful foreword from his best friend, neo-soul solo singer and member of supergroups Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl, Raphael Saadiq. Whose song ‘Kings Fall’ off his 2019 album ‘Jimmy Lee’ is about Brian.
“I wake up, I feel things crawlin’/But nobody wants to see a strong man fallin’/I used to be/Everybody’s hero/Shakin’ hands and kissing babies/Wondering what to do, Lord.” – Raphael Saadiq: ‘Kings Fall’.
“Basketball gave me a life. Parkinson’s taught me how to live it.” – Brian Grant.
Acknowledge Brian’s story in a book he dedicates to his father, friend and hero, Thomas E. Grant, the best doctor he ever had, Philippe Manicom, the teacher who gave him the second chance that led to all of this, Mr. Martt and Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
“Thank you, Kobe, for showing me what greatness is,” he writes about the former foe on a Sports Illustrated Playoff preview cover who became a friend when the former Western Conference rivals ended up becoming teammates, after that big Shaq Miami Heat blockbuster that traded the South Beach talents of Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Grant to Hollywood in ’04.
The pair even got into it in practice one time with coach Rudy Tomjanovich breaking them up before it was all good. Not wanting a repeat of what happened to him and Laker Kermit Washington.
As a matter of a fact that Grant reveals here, he would have been drafted by the Lakers if it wasn’t for a steak. After working out with the Sacramento Kings in California the team took him out for dinner and challenged him to eat a 48 ounce steak that was free if you finished it.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Brain polished off the animal, but later it finished him off. After arriving at his hotel in LA he went straight to bed and slipped into a food coma. Only to have former Showtime legend Michael Cooper serve as his alarm clock. Banging on his door as Brian then proceeded with a steak sluggish workout that left the logo, Jerry West along with Magic chewing him out with, “you’ll never work in this town again” kind of talk.
Don’t have a cow Jerry…it’s funny how it all works out.
It’s not completely Brian’s fault. Coop wouldn’t even give him the time to take a deuce. “No! This is the Lakers”, the defensive stopper told Grant.
The Kings ended up taking the former number 33 retired Xavier college standout with the eighth (8th) pick in the 1994 draft, and you can be forgiven for thinking it was all meant to be, or by part of some creative and crafty steakhouse planning from Sacto. Sacramento is also where Brain in a drop top met Ray, Ray Saadiq on the back of a motorbike at a traffic stop, before chopping it up in a local sports bar.
The soul icon putting him on to all sorts of music, whilst Grant in return taught him how to listen to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ backwards. Music was as much a part of Brian’s life as basketball. That’s where the Bob Marley dreads come from, as a friendship with the reggae master’s musical son’s Stephen and Damian grew from there.
Brain told me in an interview a decade ago about his foundation that Bob’s beliefs help guide him through any a storm. “I think finding peace within ourselves, whatever ails us, is the ultimate lesson,” he added with his own natural mystic wisdom.
Heed these words, because Brain’s been through it. You think guarding Malone, Shaq and Tim Duncan during every round of the playoffs is tough, as Brian play-by-play shows us the heartbreak on the other side of Sean Elliott’s heel ‘Memorial Day Miracle’ jumper? Well, no one is tougher than this dude that coaches always trusted to put on the opposing teams big, even at “just” a Ben Wallace like 6-foot-9.
That was good enough for multiple ‘Defensive Player Of The Year’ awards for the Piston legend and NBA champion…and we feel like Brian deserved at least one of those end of season nods like he did an All-star break.
All in a career that saw Brian become an integral part of a Portland powerhouse over the years. Featuring the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Arvydas Sabonis, Damon Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Jermaine O’Neal, Bonzi Wells and Chicago great Scottie Pippen that could have blazed a trail back to those flame-haired Bill Walton championship days of the 70’s. Not to mention then leaving 93 million on the table for 2 after giving Pat Riley his word he’d sign with the Heat (Riles returned the favor ur with an 83 milli bonus).
Making major moves in Miami with Alonzo Mourning, Anthony (‘Money Mase’ rest in peace) Mason, Eddie Jones and Tim Hardaway for a fabulous five and then the flash future of Dwyane Wade as the 2003 draft blew in the shores. Before finishing up his career in California and then Arizona with the Phoenix Suns. After all that he then faced his most fearsome opponent in Parkinson’s. One that afflicts millions of people including former heavyweight champion and King of the world, Muhammad Ali.
But Brian won’t be defeated. Not from Parkinson’s, depression, drugs, or his own demons. Not taking anything for granted like we shouldn’t this man, Grant details his many mistakes and infidelities. Instead of making excuses he learns and looks at the legacy he will one day leave as he marvels at the beauty of his blended family, with all concerned on the same page of faith in that foundation. Just like the good book or this one says.
As you can see Parkinson’s is just one part of this mans influential and inspiring story…even if it is one of the biggest. Coming into focus at around the last 50 pages of this 356 page coffee table read that you will burn through like this guy used to do Gatorade during game breaks.
Shedding light on his struggle, bringing to light medical research that continues towards developing a cure and detailing the part that his ‘Shake It ‘Till We Make It’ charity plays. He also gives it up for the friends like Saadiq that still help him to this day. Including amongst many, Coach Riley and Karl Malone, who took him and a donating fan up on that fishing trip he talked about in response to Karl’s war of words to the press.
Not to mention one of the most famous faces of PD research, ‘Back To The Future’ franchise face Michael J. Fox. A Hollywood legend whose latest autobiography (‘No Time Like The Future’) joins his classic memoirs ‘Lucky Me’ and ‘Always Looking Up’. Fox who once described Brian Grant as having, “the biggest shoulders he’s ever seen” in response to the burden of this debilitating disease. The good friends are in this fight together, forever.
Soaring and scoring with this basketball book and life story, the man that battles Parkinson’s every day continues to rebound like he did in the league with many a play. Showing that finding our way back after all the hits and misses we take and make in this life is what really matters.