Peter Kerasotis

They were best friends, and bitter competitors.

It usually works that way with brothers, especially when the brothers enter the world at the same time, only nine minutes apart.

"We fought like cats and dogs," Horace Grant said of he and his twin brother Harvey, laughing at some of the memories. But then his tone turned a tad more serious. "But I'll tell you this, no one else could hit Harvey, and as far as Harvey was concerned, no one could hit me. But, man, we used to knock each other out."

And as he said this, the smile returned to Horace's face.

Harvey Grant is one of Horace Grant's favorite topics. The popular Orlando Magic power forward is the older of the twins, and has had a longer career in the NBA. Harvey, once known as an NBA defensive specialist, is now getting into coaching. This season, he'll coach the fledgling Brevard Blue Ducks of the USBL, a team based in Melbourne.

Horace's favorite story about he and his brother goes back a quarter of a century, way back to when they were 12, growing up in Sparta, Georgia, a small speck of a town about an hour southeast of Atlanta. Actually, the Grants grew up about 20 miles outside of the town, in what Horace calls "the southern projects."

There were good times, and bad. Most of the stories they tell now, they tell with laughter. Especially this story, that always causes a twinkle to work its way into Horace's eyes as the years peel away.

A conflict arose one day, as it usually did when the two boys were left unsupervised. Horace has a hard time remembering why the two boys were fighting. Harvey, however, remembers distinctly that it was because his brother was wearing his shirt, and wouldn't take it off.

Naturally, a wrestling match ensued. But Horace broke free and started to run. Harvey warned him not to flee, but a lot of good that did. His shouts fell on deaf ears.

"He kept telling me to stop, but I wouldn't," Horace said. "So Harvey grabbed the first thing he could find, and he threw it at me."

By now, the laughter was working its way back into Horace's words.

"It was a fork. He threw this fork at me, and that thing stuck right in my butt."

And just like that, the tide of power shifted.

Horace went and laid on his bed, face down. Harvey tried to come over and remove the fork, but Horace wouldn't let him. He wanted the fork to stay right were it was.

"Just wait till Mom gets home," Horace kept mumbling. "You're going to get a beating. Man, you're going to get the beating of your life."

So he kept the fork where it was, and waited. But a funny thing happened when their mother, Grady Grant, got home from work. She saw the fork, and as was expected, she was quite upset. But just when Horace knew she was going to spank Harvey, he stepped in to stop her.

"I begged her not to," he said. "I told her Harvey didn't mean it. You see, I knew it was torture to even think about getting punished by Mom, and that's what I wanted. I wanted him to suffer that mental anguish. But I didn't want to see Harvey get hit."

Horace smiled, and he fast-forwarded the years all the way back to today.

"You know," he said, "Harvey still owes me one."

And then he laughed, again.

Brothers. They never stop needling. They never stop kidding. Most importantly, they never stop loving.

That's why you can expect to see Horace at many of Harvey's Blue Duck basketball games this upcoming season. He says he'll be there heckling his brother, the head coach, from the stands. But everybody knows better. More than likely, Horace will be helping out, offering support. They've always been there for each other -- that is, when they weren't at each other's throat.

When the Grant boys played neighborhood baseball as kids, the two always played on the same team and helped each other out. But when they played one-on-one, the game was different. It was a knock-down-drag-out battle. Neither brother would allow the other to leave the court, not unless the score was tied and nobody could be declared the winner.

Horace and Harvey even played together in college, at Clemson University. And when Harvey decided to transfer to Independence College in Kansas, Horace talked about following him. But Harvey wouldn't let Horace do that. He told his brother that he was a better player, and that Horace's future was brighter if he stayed at Clemson, playing in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference.

Horace knew his brother was right. So he stayed, and eventually became the ACC Player of the Year. Later, he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, playing alongside Michael Jordan during those early championship years.

When he left Chicago for the Orlando Magic as a free agent, signing in 1995, it wasn't without first having many long conversations with Harvey, asking for his advice. Harvey was there for him.

Several seasons later, when the brothers were playing on opposing NBA teams, it was now Harvey who turned to Horace for advice, asking him whether he should stay in Washington, or leave as a free agent. "Horace has always been there for me," Harvey said.

And vice versa.

Throughout their NBA careers, the Grants were known for their hard work. Like most everything else, it was an extension of their childhood. Their parents divorced when the boys were young, so the brothers often worked odd jobs, doing whatever they could to bring money into the family.

Being the oldest, Horace felt obliged to be the man of the house. "I'd cut lawns, wash cars, whatever," he said.

Sometimes, that "whatever" stepped across the line into less traditional ways of earning some cash. "I'd do a little hustling," Horace said, smiling. "I'd go to street corners and play a little craps. I'd go down there with $10 and come home with $150. I'd give my Mom half and keep the other half. I didn't want her to know how I'd gotten it. Man, if she knew, whew ... I mean, she was strict. I'd have gotten my butt beat good."

Or bad, depending on your point of view.

Sometimes the street corner game was blackjack. Whatever it was, Horace was usually good at it. But his real talent was on the basketball court. While the streets and the projects were filled with statistics waiting to be calculated -- drugs, teenage pregnancies and crime - Grady Grant wouldn't allow her boys to stray. She kept them in school, and kept them playing sports, though nobody really knew that it would be basketball that provided the off-ramp out of the projects and into multimillion-dollar NBA careers.

From those days in the projects, those sweltering summer afternoons at Mayfield Park, playing on blacktop basketball courts with chain nets, Horace and Harvey have gone on to make names for themselves on the most prestigious basketball courts in the world.

They'll turn 37 this 4th of July. And while Harvey already is moving into coaching, Horace, who says he will retire after this season, is eager to move on with his life.

"You won't find me coaching," he said. "No way. No. But I'll be there for Harvey. I'll be there cheering for him, every step of the way. He's my brother, my best friend. I always want the best for him."

Peter Kerasotis is a sports columnist for Florida Today in Melbourne who regularly writes about the Magic.
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