Ex-NBA Player Brian Grant has Parkinson's Disease

Dreadlocked former athlete hopes going public inspires others

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Former NBA player Brian Grant has told ESPN he has Parkinson's Disease.

    Former NBA player Brian Grant, who was known for his flowing dreadlocks and ferocious defense, says he is battling Parkinson's Disease.

    Grant, 37, who played for five teams in a 12-year career, said he went public with his early onset Parkinson's to provide comfort and inspiration to other sufferers of the disease, which progressively robs people of coordination and motor skills. He told ESPN he first noticed something was wrong last summer, and finally got the grim diagnosis in February. Still, he kept it under wraps for four months.

    "I had people saying they'd heard I was debilitated, like in a wheelchair," said the 6-foot-9 former forward. "I finally decided, 'I need to get in front of this.' Maybe there's somebody who is in their 20s and has young onset and is scared. We're all going through this together. I'm just stepping into it. But now I'm ready to step into it. This has given me a purpose."

    Previously, all Grant knew about Parkinson's was that it afflicts actor Michael J. Fox. Now that he knows he has it, he is dealing with it by throwing himself into public appearances and coaching his two sons' basketball teams. But he acknowledges anxiety about his future.

    "My greatest fear," he said, "is losing control of me. Having someone have to take care of me. But that was at the beginning."

    Tests in January confirmed he had the disease, but he had suspected it for months. He first noticed a tremor in his left hand last summer, but a neurologist attributed it to stress.

     When the Blazers invited him to a Nov. 6 game honoring his former teammate Kevin Duckworth, who had died of a heart attack at 44 last August, Grant worried that his old teammates would notice his trembling left hand.

    "I hadn't been in front of a crowd that big since I retired," he said. "I kept trying to think about how I could disguise my hand. And I knew the players were going to see it and wonder what was up. That's what bothered me the most. I did not want to be perceived by the players as weak."

    He clutched his left hand with his right to keep it still, but that only made other parts of his body twitch. He blamed nervousness, admitting only to former teammate Jerome Kersey that it was a tremor.

    Two months later, when the tremor hadn't gone away,  he went to Los Angeles for tests that conclusively determined he has Parkinson's.

    Grant, who averaged 10 points and seven rebounds in his career, plating with Sacramento, Portland, Miami, the Lakers and Phoenix, has reached out to Fox and says he benefited from the star's advice.

    "He told me you have to rule it, you can't let it rule you," Grant said. "There's no saying, 'If it's going this way, then I'm going this way.' It's going to be with you. But instead of letting it control you and take you under, you've got to say, 'OK, I know you're going with me but you're going to be back there.'"