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Athletes With Parkinson’s

Retired NBA power forward Brian Grant isn’t the only famous athlete with Parkinson’s. Here are 10 more sports superstars diagnosed with the disease.

NBA legend Brian Grant retired from professional basketball in 2006 after a 12-year career playing for the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

Two years later, at the age of 36, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. This motivated him to launch the Brian Grant Foundation, which provides educational tools to help people with Parkinson’s lead active, fulfilling lives. (Check out our online Parkinson’s exercise videos!)

But, as most of us know, Grant isn’t the only sports superstar to power through the disease. Here are 10 more legendary athletes with Parkinson’s.

1. Muhammad Ali

Let’s start with the obvious choice – the greatest of all time – Mr. “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see” Muhammad Ali, the leading heavyweight champion of the 20th century. Three years after retiring from boxing in 1981, he was diagnosed with PD and committed himself to raising awareness and research funding. The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. “The Greatest” passed away in 2006. An estimated 1 billion viewers worldwide watched his memorial.

2. Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister was a British Olympic athlete and the first man to run a four-minute mile in 1954. After his track career ended, he went on to become a distinguished neurologist at Oxford, publishing more than 80 papers before retiring in 1993. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011 and passed away in 2018 at the age of 88.

3. Dave Jennings

Dave Jennings was a legendary football punter who played in the NFL from 1974 to 1987 for the New York Giants and the New York Jets. He worked as a radio color commentator for Giants games from 2002 until 2007. He died in 2012 after a long battle with PD at the age of 61.

4. Kirk Gibson

Kirk Gibson is a retired MLB player who played for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s best known for two game-winning homeruns in the 1984 and 1988 World Series. Following his retirement from baseball in 1995, he became a television analyst and then a coach for the Tigers in 2003. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015. Today the Kirk Gibson Foundation is helping to find a cure for Parkinson’s.

5. Davis Phinney

Davis Phinney is a retired professional bike racer from Boulder, Colorado. His racing career spanned two decades and included two stage victories in the Tour de France and the 1984 Olympic Bronze Medal. Phinney was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s in 2000 at age 40. He started the Davis Phinney Foundation to help people with Parkinson’s lead active lives.

6. Jerry Sloan

Basketball hall-of-famer Jerry Sloan was a two-time all-Star and a four-time all-defensive player for the Chicago Bulls. He later went on become one of the most respected coaches in the NBA for the Utah Jazz. Sloan has been living with PD and Lewy body dementia since 2016.

7. Lou Groza

Louis Roy Groza, nicknamed “The Toe,” was an NFL placekicker and offensive tackle who played his entire career for the Cleveland Browns. Throughout his 21 seasons, he helped the Browns win eight league championships and set numerous records in field goals. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the 1990s. He passed away in 2000 from a heart attack at the age of 76.

8. Al Arbour

Canadian ice hockey star Al Arbour had a long career as a defenseman in the NHL starting with the Detroit Red Wings in 1954. After retiring from the St. Louis Blues in 1970, he began a successful coaching career. Arbour won three Stanley Cups as a player and four more as the coach of the New York Islanders. He died in 2015 at age 82 shortly after his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

9. Dave Parker

Dave Parker, better known as “The Cobra” was a seven-time MLB all-star who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels and Toronto Blue Jays. He was part of two World Series champions, won two batting championships and was the 1978 MVP. Parker has been living with Parkinson’s since 2013.

10. Freddie Roach

Freddie Roach is a former lightweight boxer with a career record of 40 wins and 13 losses. He was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at the age of 27. Now in his third decade with PD, he credits vigorous exercise and his training as a coach to slowing down the progression of his disease. Coach Roach is now 59.

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