Actually, Grant has patterned his game more after Dennis Rodman's than Barkley's or Malone's. When he finished his four years at Xavier and was taken as the eighth pick in the 1994 draft by Sacramento, he watched Rodman closely and adopted his practice of tapping a rebound to an open spot and then retrieving it. Rodman's multihued hairstyle also helped persuade Grant to grow his dreadlocks, which are tinted red at the tips. (Perhaps more influential was a trip to Jamaica four years ago where Grant was exposed to Marley and was so impressed with both his music and his politics that he had Marley's image tattooed on his right arm.)
Still, with his ability to win rebounding battles against more athletic players and his willingness to concentrate on defense and think about scoring only when called upon, Grant brings to mind the best of Rodman, without the sideshow theatrics. When Grant became a free agent in 1997, he signed with the Blazers largely because the idea of playing a well-defined role appealed to him. The talent in Portland would make that possible. "I wanted to be part of a true team," he says. "When I was a kid with my cousins and one of us got 50 cents, it was dime for you, dime for you, dime for you. That's the way it should work on a team. Spread the wealth. That's how we've made it this far."
To make it any further, the Blazers will need Grant's consistency and, probably, more of his scoring. But whatever the outcome of the series, Grant's days of anonymity are over. There's a certain dignified treatment he has earned, in part because of his good work on the court but probably in larger part because of his good works off it.
That was evident on Saturday before Game 1, when a pair of Spurs fans, both dressed in Duncan replica jerseys, stationed themselves at the railing of the Alamodome stands within shouting distance of the walkway leading from the Portland locker room onto the court. The two men greeted each Blazer with jeers and warnings about the indignities he was about to suffer at the hands of the Spurs. But when Grant approached, one of the boo brothers touched the other lightly on the forearm, and they fell silent as he passed. It wasn't just because they recognized him, it was because they knew exactly who he was.