Dreadlock Riddle

Dreadlock Riddle


by Terry Brown

Does $93 million look any different to an 8-year-old kid terminally ill with cancer? Can it make him smile, laugh, giggle until the pain in his side has nothing to do with malignant cells? Do you think the kid would gather the energy to pull himself up to the sitting position to wrap his arms around it? Call it by nickname? Make him look forward to tomorrow’s shots, vomit and chemotherapy

Well, Brian Grant can. Brian Grant does.

Back when Brian Grant was a kid, he’d spend all summer working in the tobacco fields, wrestling with plants too big for his own good, body itchy with heat and humidity as flies and mosquitoes turned the sweat red.

He’d turn to his father or uncle or one his cousins and smile. “You ain’t working hard,” they’d say to each other and laugh.

And then yesterday I read about a couple of professional golfers who mocked Brian Grant for passing up multi-million dollar deals to play basketball in Portland or Cleveland as the new collective bargaining agreement tightens its grip on the NBA. One of those golfers was even a member of the Brian Grant Foundation for seriously and terminally ill and disadvantaged children. One of them called him an “absolute idiot.”

'When Brian Grant turns that money down, I got to think the same thing, 'What is this guy thinking about?''' said Peter Jacobsen.

And maybe we’ll never fully understand a man colorful with tattoos and topped off in dreadlocks. He says all the confusion concerning his free agency isn’t entirely about the money. He mentions things like family and playing time and we scoff.

We forget about Dash Thomas, the kid with cancer who died at the age of 12. Grant won’t talk about it. Too close. Too many tears. He scribbled the kid’s name onto his sneakers and tried to play through it.

We forget about Luther Ellett, a 16-year-old boy with Leukemia unable to find a compatible bone marrow donor until Brian Grant joined the cause.

He buys 25 tickets to every Blazer home game so that the poor kids of the neighborhood can watch. He feeds 50 families every Thanksgiving, holds free basketball camps and organized a golf tournament that raised more than $200,000 so that the families of the stricken kids could live with them at the hospital.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Tim Duncan? Kevin Garnett? Chris Webber?

Brian Grant is battling disease, poverty, misery.

Before this whole free agency frenzy got started, he gathered his foundation together and told them that no matter what happened, no matter where he ended up playing, the kids of Portland would be taken care of. It was the same promise he kept to the kids in Sacramento, his first NBA city, and the kids in his hometown of Georgetown, Ohio.

Chandra Shoberg is a 21-year-old intern with the Brian Grant Foundation. So, of course, she has an agenda. Me, you, Blazer GM Bob Whitsitt, agent Mark Bartlestein, Heat coach Pat Riley, and Cavalier power forward Shawn Kemp have agendas.

But 8-year-old kids with less than a year to live do not.

“He walks into a room and their faces light up,”Chandra says. “It’s amazing the effect he has on them. They don’t know that he’s famous. They just know that he’s real. He talks and plays with each one individually. Adults always treat him like a celebrity but the kids just see a nice guy.”

He never announces his visits. Too many cameras. Too many reporters. They get between him and the kids. He chooses, instead, to protect them from a world defined by dollar signs. Truth is, an undersized power forward with career averages of 11.8 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game with no all star appearances, no rings and a history of injury isn’t worth a 7-year, $93 million contract.

But Brian Grant is worth more.

And the question shouldn’t be about who Brian Grant will be laboring FOR next season. But, rather, why aren’t we laboring WITH him?

Simply, we ain’t working hard enough.



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