The memories of Brian Grant during his 12-year NBA career are legendary—dreadlocks flopping as he drove to the basket on the court; smile beaming as he visited children in the hospital off the court. What made the memories especially gratifying was knowing that the lessons he learned at Xavier about both basketball and serving others never left him as he wove his way through the temptation-filled, me-first world of professional basketball. Grant was not only good at the game, but he was a good guy. In 1999, the NBA deservedly gave him its J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
So it is fitting that the rafters of the Cintas Center now permanently honor Grant as one of Xavier’s best. At halftime of the Xavier-Temple game on Jan. 22, Grant’s 33 jersey was permanently retired and placed next to Byron Larkin’s 23, Tyrone Hill’s 42 and David West’s 30.
Grant came to Xavier unheralded and lightly recruited from Georgetown High School in Ohio, but went on to become Xavier’s fourth all-time leading rebounder (1,080) and ninth all-time leading scorer (1,719). He secured the school career record for field goal percentage (.594). He was also two-time Midwestern Collegiate Conference Player of the Year, earned national honors from the Associated Press and Basketball Times, and was Xavier’s highest ever NBA Draft selection at eighth overall by Sacramento in 1994.
He earned All-Rookie honors for Sacramento before moving on to play for Portland, Miami, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix.
It was while he was with Portland, though, that Brian Grant the man began to outshine Brian Grant the player. He organized a bone marrow drive to save the life of a 16-year-old Portland boy; he served as the Oregon and Southwest Washington spokesperson for Ronald McDonald House Charities; and he launched the Brian Grant Foundation to assist seriously ill children and their families, as well as under-privileged youth. Grant and his family even began to provide Thanksgiving dinners, adopt underprivileged families for Christmas and coordinate a “Scholastic Attendance Program” for the area’s children.
Today, Grant’s still serving others through the foundation, albeit with a different goal in mind. He was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s Disease in 2008 and now uses the foundation to raise money and awareness for research on Parkinson’s—a disease that strikes even good guys.