MIAMI – Former Heat center Brian Grant sees the parallels.
In early March 2004 Miami was 11 games under .500, went 17-4 the rest of the way and finished fourth in the East.
In mid-January of this season Miami was 11-30, has won 26 of 24 and gone from the second worst record in the league to the No. 7 seed.
“We had veterans, you kind of expect veterans to bring it together,” Grant said of the team led by the 6-foot-9 Grant, Lamar Odom, Eddie Jones and a rookie named Dwyane Wade.
“This is a young team that really says a lot about (coach Erik Spoelstra.)”
Grant, 45, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease late in 2005. He publicized his disease four years later.
After the diagnosis he decided to recreate the Brian Grant Foundation to support efforts toward the education and awareness of Parkinson’s. The mission is to help those impacted by the disease to live active and fulfilling lives.
The foundation hosts a fundraiser, Shake It Till We Make It, to raise money to provide support and resources for all those affected by Parkinson’s. Shake It Till We Make It is held annually in his hometown of Portland, Ore. Saturday it will be held for the first time in Miami.
Grant praised the Heat organization for being contributors to his foundation and said he has always wanted to do something in South Florida.
“What we’re trying to do is get people who are young and have on-set Parkinson’s, 60 or younger, to continue moving and getting up, not to wait for the cure because that cure may never come in our lifetime,” Grant said. “That’s what we’ve built our program on.”
Grant has become very public about his disease but that always wasn’t the case.
“It took awhile,” he said. “I still deal with it from time to time. I’ve always been someone who is self-conscious about what people think but not as bad as when I was first diagnosed. Then I was always looking to see who was looking and no one was looking.”
When someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s the best thing is to “progress relatively slow,” Grant said. He has, and he attributes that to being an athlete. His main symptoms are “a tremor, a little bit of foot tapping and a short term memory loss.”
“I really don’t have any limitations other than when I don’t want to do something I say, ‘Oh, man, I got Parkinson’s,’” he said with a smile. “Or I need my kid to get the remote control or something like that.”
Grant played 12 seasons in the NBA, four with Miami before being dealt to the Lakers in July 2004 as part of the trade that brought Shaquille O’Neal to Miami. He averaged 10.5 points and 7.4 rebounds in his career.
Spoelstra will remember Grant as being “one of the ultimate Miami Heat teammates.”
“He’s always remembered here for his time because he was such a giving and selfless teammate, was great for the culture, believed in what you were doing and put his heart and soul and guts out there to try to help you win,” Spoelstra said. “You love guys like that. Obviously what he’s gone through has been so tough. But the awareness he’s been able to generate and to really try to make a difference I think that is awesome.”
Grant returned the praise.
“People tend to think because you have LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade you don’t really need to coach them,” he said. “You absolutely need to coach them. But I think he’s really shining with this group, and saying ‘I can coach (a) group of superstars but I can also coach this group of young kids and make a good run at this year.’
“I’m really happy for Spo.”