NBA lockout doesn’t threaten Grant’s fundraiser
AP Sports Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The NBA lockout isn’t really posing any challenges for Brian Grant’s big fundraiser to fight Parkinson’s disease, contrary to widespread reports and Internet buzz.
Last summer, a few NBA players lent Grant a hand in his “Shake It Till We Make It” gala dinner and golf tournament. This year, that won’t be the case.
Grant, who has the disease, serves as a community ambassador for the Portland Trail Blazers. Because of the labor dispute between league owners and players, team employees can’t have contact with players.
There will be plenty of other celebrities to help Grant’s cause on July 31 at the Rose Garden Arena dinner. The golf tournament will be held the next day at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club west of Portland.
Grant raised $350,000 last year, with participants including Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Pat Riley and Bill Russell.
Reports surfaced this week that Grant was being hamstrung by the no-contact edict and the story spread to Twitter. But the criticism was unfounded, said “Shake It Till We Make It” spokeswoman Sara Perrin.
“The NBA has been an awesome partner for us. They couldn’t be more supportive,” she said.
Grant can’t address the rumors himself without facing a possible fine.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank says neither Grant nor the Blazers have asked for an exemption to the no-contact rule. But others have asked and received exclusions.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was allowed to appear with his team at the recent ESPY awards. Employees of the Miami Heat were permitted to attend Chris Bosh’s wedding this weekend.
The NBA was criticized for allowing Michael Jordan to play in a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe this weekend – while Grant had not been given the same blessing. But Frank said Jordan, an owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, and Vinny Del Negro, coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, checked with the league office before the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship to make sure they weren’t breaking any rules.
Frank told The Associated Press in an email that there are no rules against owners and players being at an independent event, such as the golf tournament, where they’re among many other people. Problems arise when team business or the labor dispute is discussed.
But Grant, as a team employee, cannot invite current players to attend his own fundraiser unless he has an exemption. Additionally, the event takes place at the Rose Garden, which could be problematic.
The collective bargaining agreement between team owners and the players’ union expired at the end of the day June 30. Owners locked out the players after the sides remained far apart in their final proposals.
Among the sports celebrities attending Grant’s dinner this year are Riley, Russell, Charles Barkley, Bill Walton and Detlef Schrempf. Muhammad Ali’s wife, Lonnie Ali, will speak. Muhammad Ali also suffers from Parkinson’s.
The fundraising dinner is sold out, Perrin said.
Only a few active NBA players, including Portland’s Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, attended the event last year.
A first-round draft pick in 1994 out of Xavier, Grant played for five NBA teams. The dreadlocked 6-foot-9 forward built a reputation for hard-nosed play after a ferocious battle against Karl Malone in the 1999 playoffs.
In the 2000-01 season, the Heat moved him from power forward to center after Alonzo Mourning developed a kidney illness, and he helped the team to 50 wins.
He averaged 10.5 points and 7.4 rebounds over his 12-year career before retiring in 2006 because of chronic knee problems.
Two years ago, soon after he decided to make Portland his home, Grant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. About 1.5 million Americans have the disease, which destroys brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical key to the functions that control muscle movement. Patients suffer from increasingly severe tremors and periodically rigid limbs. They can have trouble walking, speaking and writing.
There is no cure.