I had to ask.Brian Grant Rebound
What I hoped to hear: “It’s nothing.” Or, at least: “It’s nothing to worry about.” That’s what I hoped.
It started with a twitch in his wrist. Like most people eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Brian Grant ignored it. He had basketball to play. Eventually he showed it to the team trainer and the team neurologist, both felt that it was from overuse. He played through pain much of the time, needing 14 major surgeries in 12 years in the NBA. Grant says that what might be a red flag for a normal person is often viewed as just the price of business for a player in the NBA. But that twitch eventually spread to his pinky finger. After retirement, depression set in and Grant’s life fell apart.
Rebound: Soaring in the NBA, Battling Parkinson’s, and Finding What Really Matters (out Tuesday, April 6) tells Brian Grant’s story, from the little farming town on the Ohio River where he grew up, expecting to pick tobacco and potatoes his whole life, to living a life he never could have imagined. With the help of a few instrumental people along the way, especially his Uncle John who pushed him to succeed in basketball, Grant went from a very tall (6 ‘9″), shy, gangly kid to a confident NBA star with all of the trappings that go with it, including big houses in Miami and Portland.
About a year after he retired, he was invited by his former team, the Portland Trailblazers, to appear at a game with a few other ex-players. He was so afraid of appearing in public because he was “overweight, with a left hand fluttering like a butterfly for no apparent reason,” that he finally sought out another neurologist who diagnosed Brian, at age 36, with YOPD – Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.
When I was asked to look at this book, I was not sure what to expect. I only knew about Brian Grant from the perspective of person with Parkinson’s who is familiar with the Brian Grant Foundation and the terrific work that it does. I knew little about his basketball career and nothing about where he came from.
From a small town in Ohio to the NBA
In “Rebound”, Grant and co-writer Ric Bucher go back to his beginnings, in that small Ohio town where he grew up, to tell his story. He did not play high school basketball until his senior year. On the basis of that one year, he was recruited by several college programs, eventually committing to Xavier in Cincinnati. Grant played 12 years in the NBA with 5 different teams, was married twice and had eight children (from four mothers), and finally, learned to cope with his Parkinson’s diagnosis. Two years after his diagnosis, Grant established The Brian Grant Foundation to help people with Parkinson’s live active lives with PD.
Grant doesn’t shy away from the demons that have plagued him throughout his career and the relationships he had with women. He regrets having lost the love of his life, blaming himself for the break-up of his marriage to Gina.
Never back down from a challenge
Most compelling in the book are the stories he told about never backing down from a challenge, whether it was by other players, his personal affairs or finally, his life with Parkinson’s. This drive became the basis of how he approached everything in life as an adult.
Getting an insiders view of playing against NBA superstars such as Shaquille O’Neil and Karl Malone was fun. Learning about the Combine – the pre-NBA draft camp for prospects – was also very interesting. But the most interesting story was about “climbing the mountain.” With a friend who was a documentary filmmaker, Grant recruited a group of Parkinson’s pals to climb Mt. St. Helens in Washington and film the climb. Like many of us who have Parkinson’s, Grant overestimated what he was capable of, turning the climb to the summit a challenge that was much more difficult than anything he had done before.
After the climb, Grant realized that most people with PD think of their limitations, not what they can do. His most important message in the book for anyone with Parkinson’s is to look at things differently. Look at what you can learn from PD. He says “Mountains come in all kinds of different forms… Find your mountain and climb it.“
Parkinson’s Awareness Month
I am sure that you were barraged with emails from every Parkinson’s organization yesterday, as I was. So I am only going to give you one tip on each blog post this month. Read last week’s post for more detailed ideas.
“Educate someone everyday about Parkinson’s Disease” from Allison Smith, The Perkie Parky
Post something on your Facebook page, on Instagram, call a friend. Just get the word out that we can live well with Parkinson’s Disease.