Blazers new and old show support for Grant, Parkinson’s

PORTLAND — NBA legends Bill Walton and Bill Russell walked side by side, brushing tall shoulders and trading large smiles.

Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Pat Riley strode down a bright-red carpet, engulfed by television lights, cameras and microphones.

Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Brandon Roy and Greg Oden spoke with modesty and reverence.

All carried big names and major star power Sunday evening at the Rose Garden. But none overshadowed ex-Blazer forward Brian Grant.

Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease was the centerpiece of a glitzy, Hollywood-like fundraiser that benefited the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. And as everyone from Walton to Roy made their way into the sold-out event, Grant’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about his illness drew words of praise and respect from current and former NBA stars who went out of their way to attend the benefit.

“Brian Grant has always stood for a hope and for a better tomorrow,” said Walton, who played center for the Blazers from 1974-78. “Now that he’s facing the biggest battle of his life, if we don’t stand tall for him, what kind of people are we? I’m proud, honored, privileged and lucky to be here tonight.”

Walton was also in awe. His two biggest idols when he was growing up were Russell and Muhammad Ali. Sunday, Walton had the opportunity to be in the same room as both.

“I got to meet my heros. … And they turned about to be better than I ever dreamed about,” Walton said. “That’s the kind of person Brian Grant is. I knew him as a player; I know him as a person. And he’s one of those truly unique souls. It’s never about him. It’s always about the dreams of others.”

Grant, who played for the Blazers from 1997-2000, said Portland “deserved” the debut of the fundraising event.

His main goal was to let as many people as possible know that he, Fox and Ali are Parkinson’s survivors. And by having current Blazers such as Roy and Oden show up after just a single phone call, Grant felt Rip City’s full-circle pull.

“I’ve got a great deal of respect for them for taking it out of their time,” Grant said. “This is their summer time. I know how my summers used to be. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to (do anything).’ But they’re here, and I’m very proud of them for that.”

Roy did not even require a call from Grant. The Blazers guard said he was already aware of the event before Grant reached out. But Roy did have one small stipulation: Walking a red carpet and participating in the fundraiser was no problem. Playing golf today at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore.? The Natural is not a natural on the greens.

“I’m happy to be part of the young Blazers and show our support to him and everybody that has this,” Roy said.

Portland executives Larry Miller and Sarah Mensah also walked before the cameras, as did ex-Blazers Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Rasheed Wallace.

“For people to come out and support Brian the way they have is just really amazing, and a testament to the kind of person that he is,” Miller said.

Oden said he is “positive” he will be ready for training camp for the 2010-11 season. The Blazers center has recently been working out with Portland strength and conditioning coach Bobby Medina in Indiana. Oden said he has lost considerable weight while going through daily five-hour drills. He plans to lose more weight, but would not reveal his ideal total. … Roy said he is “back to normal” and feels better than he has in a long time. Roy has also worked with Medina, while adding a personal trainer, and has focused on his conditioning and overall strength. “I’m in the gym everyday and getting stronger,” Roy said. “I’m extremely excited about this year. More of a workman-like approach. Really not a lot to talk about. Just trying to prepare hard and get ready for a big season.”

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Roll call:

A list of the best-known celebrities scheduled to attend Shake It Til We Make It, a Parkinson’s disease fundraiser benefiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation that was held Sunday at the Rose Garden in Portland:
Muhammad Ali, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Michael J. Fox, Jerome Kersey, Alonzo Mourning, Steve Nash, Greg Oden, Terry Porter, Pat Riley, Brandon Roy, Bill Russell, Detlef Schrempf, Rasheed Wallace, Bill Walton

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