Was Brian Grant the Blazers’ greatest free agent signing?


The Portland Trail Blazers have never had much success at luring big-name free agents to the Rose City. Jamal Crawford and Andre Miller are the only two stars that have come to Portland via free agency in recent years, excluding Wesley Matthews, who wasn’t a household name when the Blazers picked him up. Over the past five years, Enes Kanter, Paul Millsap, and Roy Hibbert signed offer sheets to join the Blazers, but those negotiations never materialized into anything other than false hope.

The best free agent signing over the past 20 years may actually be Brian Grant in 1997. He had shown flashes of brilliance as a young player on the Sacramento Kings before agreeing to a $63 million contract with the Blazers during that offseason.

Grant was a bruising power forward who had a blue-collar approach to the game. He was never flashy, but he brought his lunch pail to the job and mixed it up in the paint. His style quickly made him a fan favorite in the Rose Garden, and he earned the nickname “The Rasta Monsta” from his famed dread locks.

He quickly became a starter on an up-and-coming Blazers squad – he started 95 of his 109 games from 1997-99. He averaged 11.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game over that time frame, while shooting 49.6 percent from the field. “The Rasta Monsta” carried his success into the playoffs, where he helped lead the Blazers to the 1999 Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Unfortunately, the team was swept out of that particular series.

Following that matchup against the Spurs, the Blazers acquired Scottie Pippen from the Houston Rockets, which forced Grant to the bench. He played as a reserve for the majority of the 1999-2000 season, but he didn’t complain publicly about his role.

The Blazers made another run to the Western Conference Finals with Grant coming in as the first big man off of the pine. He averaged 20.0 minutes per game in the playoffs, and he helped lead the team against posts such as Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. The Blazers took the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games before bowing out of the playoffs once again, but Grant provided the team with the necessary toughness to battle throughout the postseason.

That turned out to be the final time we would see Grant in a Portland Trail Blazers jersey. He had an opt-out clause in his contract, and he forced the Blazers’ hand in the offseason. They ended up re-signing him to seven-year, $86 million contract before trading him to the Miami Heat (for Shawn Kemp).

Grant played six more seasons in the NBA for three different clubs – the Heat, Lakers and Phoenix Suns. He retired in 2006 and ultimately returned to Portland, making it his permanent home. Sadly, Grant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in November 2008, and currently uses his status as a former athlete to raise awareness of the illness.

The Portland Trail Blazers may not be one of the most attractive teams to free agents. Whether it’s because of weather, market, demographics, who really knows? Regardless, when they get a big-name to sign with them, it usually turns heads.

“The Rosta Monsta” was an outstanding signing for the Blazers back in 1997. He became a fan favorite overnight and he remains a beloved figure in Portland to this day. It is unfortunate that he did not stick around the Rose City for a little bit longer. The team appeared in the Western Conference Finals two out of the three years he was on the squad. You can’t argue with the success that the franchise had with Grant as a reliable contributor.

Brian Grant video via TheKingMisiek

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