Brian Grant Talks His Time in Sacramento, Parkinson's Disease and More
Brian Grant was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the 1994 Draft.
Grant, hailing from Georgetown, Ohio, was the No. 8 overall selection out of Xavier. At 6’9 and 250 pounds, Grant's expertise on the floor was rugged – unleashing his style of play mostly in the paint with tough defense, rebounding and physicality.
Grant earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honors, eventually making the playoffs during the 1995-96 season, losing in the first round to the Seattle SuperSonics.
But, it's been Grant's contributions off the court that have transcended his accomplishments on the hardwood, even after a productive 12-year NBA career.
In 2008, Grant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since his diagnosis, Grant has dedicated his life to spreading awareness, providing information to those suffering and working towards helping those in need.
Much love brother! https://t.co/La6w57N8OW
— Brian Grant (@bwgrant) April 7, 2021
Grant discusses his life, both on and off the court, unfiltered in Rebound: Soaring in the NBA, Battling Parkinson’s, and Finding What Really Matters, available now.
In an interview with Kings.com, Grant discussed his new book, the love from Sacramento fans during his tenure and much more.
What was it like starting your NBA career in Sacramento?
It was great. It was a really good fit for me because I was coming from a small town and also Cincinnati, which is a big city, but it's very, very conservative and I was only used to growing up around black people and white people. Then I get to Sacramento and it was this huge melting pot of people. It was just perfect for me and my cousin, who also came with me when I got drafted
What was your your fondest memory from your time with the Kings?
There's a couple really. Definitely making the playoffs my second year. I can remember we were in Utah, and Portland had to beat somebody to make the playoffs. Sarunas Marciulionis gets on the phone with Sabonis [Marciulionis], before I knew who Sabonis was. [Sabonis] said, "You guys got to win this game so we can make the playoffs." [Sarunas] goes, "Okay, I guess I can do that for you." And he had a big game and we ended up making the playoffs by half a game. We missed it the prior year by half again. So that was one of my fondest memories.
And second would have to be meeting my first wife Gina.
Sacramento prides itself on having great fans. Did you feel that as a player?
Absolutely. Unfortunately, I got to see the bad side of the fans when I first got there because no one knew who I was when I got drafted. I can remember doing my media [obligations] and I was excited that there was almost 30 people there, all camera people. I didn't know until the next year when Corliss [Williamson] got drafted when there was 1,000 people that I said 'Okay, maybe nobody just showed up to mine.'
But once they got a taste of myself and Michael Smith and the team just competing, it was great. They were some of the best fans in the league.
How did working on a farm during your youth affect your work ethic? Did that affect the type of player you became in the league?
It helped me with my toughness. During those times when you just feel like, "Oh man, I'm tired. I can't get it done." Just being able to have that extra boost to keep going because I can remember cutting tobacco. I remember looking up and seeing a quarter mile row of tobacco.
I know I'm going to jump a snake, which I'm terrified of, at some point. Just thinking, "I can't do this" and then thinking, "Well, if I don't do it, I don't have school clothes money." Being able to push through some tough times and physical times on the court – it really helped me with that.
You've spent a lot of time during your career and after your career working with youth charities. Why is that important?
We were all young once. I remember people in my town — which there weren't a lot — but there was Coach Graves, who took my cousins and I off the streets and had us playing baseball, which was great.
As far as teaching us rights and wrongs, being from a poor family contributed to that. When I say being poor in the country, that's different than being poor in the city. Mostly everybody's poor in the country, you just don't really know it.
People reached out to us and I can remember how that made me feel. We're talking about not having the internet yet. Now, there's not really much I can teach a kid. My kids are teaching me. They're going on the internet and learning how to bake a cake. I've always liked working with kids because they're innocent and even if they're not, you can give them some direction and get back on the right path.
How does your experience with Parkinson's Disease impact your life?
Like it is for everybody who gets diagnosed with a major disease or disorder, it's a life-changing event during a lot of life-changing events that were already taking place in my life.
The depression that came with, prior to getting the diagnosis was very heavy and very deep. I did a lot to destroy my marriage over the years, but those nine months of depression were kind of it for Gina and I. I had dreams and aspirations of being at ESPN anchor, but now I couldn't.
I had this tremor going on in my hand. And then once I knew what it was, I didn't have the courage to try to step up and deal with the shaking symptoms because I still hadn't come to grips with it yet. [Parkinson's] played a major part in leading me down this path to do this book because I've recognized finally over the years that it's given me a much different platform than basketball. Basketball set it up, but this platform is something that's going to help people hopefully all around the world.
You mentioned your battle with depression. Any advice you can give those people battling depression, especially given the struggles of the past year?
Don't be afraid to accept help. Don't have such a big ego that you think you can handle it on your own. There are people around you that love you and care about you that really want to help you. But for me, it was my ego that got in the way because I didn't believe in depression when I was going through it, and I let it snowball into a massive, destructive ball.
Maybe if I got help earlier I could've prevented some of that, but that's not what happened. You can take anything away from [the book], but get help as soon as you possibly can, and that's with anything. We've gone through such a crazy year politically and health-wise. There's just so much going on. I look at my daughter who's in her senior year. She'll never forget this because it's so crazy.
You mentioned ego being a factor in people not seeking help. Coming from the NBA, is that a barrier? Is getting help the most difficult step?
It was for me. From the time I came into the league in Sacramento, I was always challenged or challenging for a position. I played one preseason game and Michael Smith played the next day, and he was just an animal. I think I lost my spot — no spot was guaranteed to me — but he was playing well.
It wasn't until I learned how to play alongside them that I started doing better. You have to have that ego. You can't go in there being passive and say, "I'm just gonna let this player do this." You have to take it if you want to be successful and get minutes. It's hard to turn that off.
I went wrong because I brought that attitude home, I brought that attitude to family members and friends. Nine times out of ten ego is going to burn you somewhere down the line.
What is your mission with the Brian Grant Foundation?
We try to help people help themselves. We do that through doing exercise courses, nutrition classes and several other ways. We used to have boot camps but the reach wasn't getting past the Pacific Northwest. We then developed Train the Trainers, which gave trainers of any type of gym — boxing, MMA, etc. — they can come to Train the Trainers and become Parkinson's certified. So, if somebody has Parkinson's Disease and they walk into a 24-hour Fitness and ask “is there anyone that can train me?” they can point and say “these three people are Parkinson's Certified to train you.” That's huge because we never had anything like that before.
And then with nutrition, what you eat and foods that are ideal for Parkinson's patients are things we're teaching. That information is going to help you. We're just specifically targeting Parkinson's patients with information.
If readers can take one thing away from from your book, what would you want people to leave with?
The most important thing is that life sometimes throws you some surprises and other times you can see it coming. No matter what, just keep on pushing and keep on asking for help along the way when you really need it.
Brian Grant's new autobiography,Rebound: Soaring in the NBA, Battling Parkinson’s, and Finding What Really Matters, co-written by Ric Bucher is available now.