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NBA Family: helping Brian Grant make a difference

August 1, 2010 | 11:23 am

At the most vulnerable time of his life, Brian Grant sacrificed his treasured privacy, telling the story of his battle with depression and diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s.

Inherently, Grant recognized what he could do to try to make a difference in the fight against the disease. His 12-year career in the NBA, which featured stops in Portland, Miami and a season with the Lakers had forged tight relationships and afforded him a unique platform.

He went public last year, and Grant’s story was told eloquently and sensitively by ESPN’s Ric Bucher and later by Ken Berger of Grant, who is holding a two-day funding raising event in Portland, Ore., starting Sunday, spoke about the gratifying response he has received from the extended NBA Family.

There will be a meet-and-greet gala Sunday night at the Rose Garden and a golf event on Monday to benefit Parkinson’s research. Among those expected to attend are Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Pat Riley, Bill Walton, Bill Russell and a host of past and current NBA players.

“Making calls to people I really didn’t even know, like Bill Russell and [Bill] Walton and guys like that immediately saying, ‘I’m there’ really makes me feel good about having been a part of the NBA for 12 years,” Grant said in a telephone interview with The Times last week.

 He spoke about the decision to go public last year.

“A lot of it had to do with pride and the fact that as an athlete you are at the top of your conditioning," Grant said. "You always feel like you’re in control of everything going on in your life, mainly your body and then being hit with a debilitating disease, that actually you’re going to lose control of your body over the years.

“As I sit here and talk to you about it, my hand is tremoring. You kind of get past it and you realize, look, you’re not the only one dealing with this. There are people dealing with this. It affects their jobs, and it affects what they have to do each and every day. Man up.”

Fox was one of the first individuals to call Grant. The Portland fundraiser is being put on in conjunction with Grant’s foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s Center.

“He didn’t call me as Michael J. Fox, the actor/advocate, he just called me a person and spoke to me as a person and just told me about how it was for him when he first decided to go public and how you’ve got to lose the vanity,” Grant said.

“Otherwise you’ll go crazy. People are going to look as you start to lose more and more control of your body. You just can’t worry about it. That’s not who you are. Parkinson’s isn’t who you are, it’s just something you live with it.”

Grant said his health is “pretty good.”  He is using a blend of conventional medicine and natural-based measures and said one of the missions of his foundation is to increase public awareness and the education of newly diagnosed patients, providing a one-stop website for concise information.

The website will be in good hands if Grant quotes the late John Lennon on it, the way he did later in our interview when we spoke about trying to control life:

“Somebody gave me a quote and I thought it was awesome. John Lennon said: Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. That is so true.”

 -- Lisa Dillman