Early Wednesday morning, former Portland Trail Blazer forward Brian Grant released a piece via the Player's Tribune documenting his acknowledgement of and fight against Young Onset Parkinson's Disease.
The opening line, chilling sets the tone for a topic that at one point haunted the 12-year NBA veteran.
"It started with a twitch."
Back in 2008, most didn't know Grant was suffering from a disease that manifests in ways usually difficult to disguise, and that's where the story begins.
It was unnerving to go to any event, because I was so worried about how I looked. In 2008, I went to a Portland Trail Blazers game for Kevin Duckworth's memorial. 20,000 fans stared down at me, cheered for me, and all I could think of was hiding my hand.
What comes next can be a little difficult to read or discomforting to those not familiar with such a debilitating disease. Grant's candor goes to show just how far he has committed to the cause. Ultimately describing his emotional state, at what one would expect to be an incredibly low point in his life, while dealing with this disease the end of a 15 year marriage, depression, and what to do with his post-NBA self.
Phone calls from two people who have helped lead the charge against Parkinson's helped change Grant's mindset.
Luckily, two weeks later, I received two calls that enlightened me and gave me a new purpose.
One was from Lonnie Ali, Muhammad's wife. She wanted to know how I was doing, not just with the Parkinson's, but with everything else in my life. She said that just because I had Parkinson's doesn't mean I could ignore everything else that was stressing me out.
The other was from Michael J. Fox.We talked about next steps, and whether I'd join the fight against the disease.
"If you don't want to, that's OK," he said. "But once you step into that arena, you're in it. There's no stepping in and stepping out."
The outpouring of support from the NBA community staggered Grant. One in particular stood out: his former rival from the Utah Jazz, Karl Malone.
"Brian, it's Karl Malone. I just heard about your disease and I was wondering if there's anything I can do to help."
As it turned out, I did have an idea.
"Do you remember Games Five and Six of the Western Conference semis?" I asked.
"I'll never forget them."
"Well, after Game Five, I went home and watched your interview. When I had my interview the next day, they asked me what message I had for you. I didn't want to talk smack. I just said that you're my idol, I patterned my game after you, and I heard you like to hunt and fish, and I'm hoping that one day we can go fishing together. So I think a fishing trip with you and me would be a really great auction item."
All he said was: "Done."
We raised $107,000 from that one trip.
Through it all Grant maintains that his sanity, rooted in acceptance and a sense of humor is what allows him to be himself now. Allowing others to help him, the pride and hubris of a former NBA athlete, is still difficult to deal with but crucial for him moving forward and he seems at peace with that.
The piece is filled with personal accounts that are best left to the piece itself, and while the highlights touch on some pertinent points, the article is most definitely worth your time