NBA Star Tim Frazier: Life Lessons from My Grandmother

Jan 31, 2019 | by Tim Frazier, Alzheimer's Association

My grandmother was a key player on my team. I often reflect on the impact she had on my life. She passed away in 2008 from complications which stemmed from Alzheimer’s disease. Before she passed, she left me with tenets that I still live by today.
 
I nicknamed her “Granny Grahamcracker” when I was young because she was always feeding me sweets. But looking back, she had been providing me with more than just treats; she was using the time we spent together to share her life lessons and pass on her wisdom.
 
As a point guard in the NBA, it is my job to help my team to see the full picture, to control the tempo of the game and to ensure all my teammates are contributing to our mission.  Looking back, I now see that my grandmother was my point guard in life.

Life Lesson 1 – Faith
 
My grandmother instilled in me a great faith in God: that through him, anything is possible. It is through my faith that I never take a day on this earth for granted and see each moment as a blessing.
 
She was always in my corner. She believed in me even when I had self-doubt. It is through her actions that I learned how to care for my loved ones unconditionally and to trust in God’s plan.
 
Life Lesson 2 – Positive Perspective
 
My grandmother had the best advice when I didn’t play well or if things weren’t going my way. She always told me that we’d win the next one and to look forward.

She saw my potential and always encouraged me to chase my dreams, staying close by my side even when I stumbled or hit a roadblock.

I faced various obstacles in my pursuit to becoming a professional basketball player. Many nights when I didn’t know where else to turn; thanks to my grandmother, I kept looking forward to the next day, to the next opportunity.
 
Life Lesson 3 – Connection 
 
My grandmother always recognized those around her. She did the simplest things that went a long way. She said “hello” to strangers and she always said “excuse me” when moving through a crowded room.
 
She believed that everyone had a story, and by connecting with those around us – even in a small way, or for a short period of time, she could make a difference in their day … or lives.
 
Now, wherever I go, I take the time to make real connections through my conversations with others. I’ve earned respect as a point guard by making a conscious effort to connecting and checking in with everyone on my team. On and off the court, I want to be someone people can talk to, about the good and the bad.

Life Lesson 4 – Empathy (The greatest lesson of all…)
 
Even during her darkest days, my grandmother still managed to teach me.
 
I was in high school when her Alzheimer’s began to worsen. The most painful moment was when she forgot my name. The person in my life that typically called the shots didn’t even know who I was.
 
I like to think that my initial reaction of anger is simply human nature, but I knew being frustrated by the current situation would not be the way my grandmother would want me to react.

So instead, I took a moment to be upset and then worked to channel her compassionate soul.  I remembered the lessons she gave me when I was young and began to empathize and connect with those around me going through similar battles. It was during this period in my life that I knew I had to join the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
 
While attending college at Penn State, there was the opportunity to participate in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Those days meant a lot. My teammates understood how important the initiative was and joined the fight alongside me. I often leaned on our head coach for guidance on how to get involved as he too had a loved one affected by the disease. 
 
Ever since then, I’ve tried to use my platform to raise awareness, whether that’s something as simple as a social media post to shed light on the disease or connecting with local families going through the same emotional roller coaster my family experienced. There are people in our communities that want to talk about Alzheimer’s. And we need to talk about it so that no one has to go on the Alzheimer’s journey alone.
 
One small way I’ve been able to connect to families affected by Alzheimer’s is by donating tickets to my NBA games. Living with and caring for those that are living with this disease can be a heavy experience. It has been an honor to provide a night off to people who live with this disease every day — a moment to relax and a chance to have some fun. The smiles on people’s faces and the memories they are creating together mean a lot to me and my family.
 
We need to take the time to connect with each other. We all need a person in our corner who knows what we’re going through to help make the journey a little easier. Everyone I’ve met knows someone — an uncle, a neighbor, a friend — who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is all around us, yet we don’t always hear a lot about it. That is why it’s important for me to support those affected by Alzheimer’s, especially families and caregivers.
 
I’ll leave you with some advice I am sure my grandmother would approve of:
 
Cherish the good times but don’t hide during the bad. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others, whether it’s a family member, friend, or stranger at the grocery store.
 
So often people don’t want to show when they are hurting; it’s OK to leave your pride to the side. We all contribute to each other’s journey and we gather strength from one another. 
 
Through our faith and positive perspectives, we can connect, show empathy for our neighbors, and, together, we can find a cure.

About TimNBA point guard Tim Frazier was born and raised in Houston, Texas. By the time he was five years old, Frazier had found a natural love for the game of basketball. His innate quickness and leadership on the court turned him into a great leader. After a stellar high school career, Tim went on to play basketball for Penn State University, where he finished his collegiate career as the school’s all-time leader in assists and earned All-Big Ten honors his final two seasons. While an undergrad, Frazier earned two bachelor’s degrees in communication arts and sciences as well as supply chain and information systems.

In Frazier’s 4+ seasons as a professional basketball player, he’s played with the Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards, and his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Off the court, Frazier is very connected with his local community, hosting a youth basketball camp in his hometown of Houston every summer. He seeks to help support families and caregivers affected by the disease, donating tickets to Pelicans games to families that are working through their Alzheimer’s
journey.

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