Basketball Jones

Basketball Jones

Image Credit: Dave Mast

For Jim “Basketball” Jones, the world just spinning around, and around, and around, and not even nearly two years off during the pandemic can keep the ever-positive basketball wizard and inspirational speaker down.

Jones was back in action at Millersburg Elementary on Thursday, March 17 for Right to Read Week, where he was amazing kids and adults with his bag of basketball skills and tricks.

Principal Renee Woods said Jones’ message is inspiring and invaluable, which is why she had him return to Millersburg for the event three years after he had been there before.

“His messages are so critical for children to hear because they are so uplifting, which is why we will probably have him come back again and again,” Woods said. “It is exactly what kids need to hear.”

As a youngster in second grade, Jones said he could only read seven letters of the alphabet. While Jones’ immense skills with a basketball are impressive, what makes his message ideal for a literacy night is his own personal story.

Jones’ life growing up was anything but easy. He was a rotund young man with dyslexia. He struggled mightily in the classroom and had to watch his friends advance through school when he was put in special education class for five years. He was made fun of in so many ways that it would have been easy for him to fall prey to the abuse.

Instead, he chose to find his way out of the wilderness, thanks in large part to his mother, who never let him forget he was special.

He used that encouragement to work harder, overcoming all obstacles, and Jones would go on to graduate from Bowling Green State University as the outstanding graduating senior for the College of Business.

His business now is encouraging kids to do likewise through his nonstop, action-packed and interactive performances.

One message Jones shared paved the way for the invention of his new plush toy Yeti. Throughout the program Jones talked about the phrase, “I haven’t done it … yet.” Thus the Yeti was born, and he encouraged kids to learn and work to achieve.

Other catch phrases included “focus,” “patient listening” and “power is knowledge when you apply it.” There were many more as he invited children to come up on stage to attempt different tasks. There was a huge game of Simon Says that he used as a learning tool and a dance-off featuring children dancing with their parents.

“I love getting the kids and parents involved together,” Jones said.

With the pandemic putting the kibosh on his livelihood for two years, he wasn’t sure how he would handle life.

“That was really challenging,” Jones said of the time off. “You start questioning your purpose after doing something for so long. You wonder what skill set you have that you can turn to, so there is self-doubt and you question your purpose.”

Fortunately, his wife encouraged him to use that time to write his own personal story of overcoming life’s obstacles, which became his new book titled “Do Something.”

He said his wife Brenda challenged him to put his life into words, and the outcome was an autobiography that tells his story and challenges others to find ways to succeed.

In addition, the time off allowed him to write in another unique forum, that being a series of children’s books. Included thus far in that series are “Bouncy and Cal’s Big Show,” “Bouncy and the Power of Yet” and “Bouncy: The Ball that Couldn’t Bounce.”

“My wife said take this time as a blessing and write your personal story,” Jones said. “Then the pen kept writing, and we wrote a children’s book, and then another and another.”

He said the children’s books correlate with his messages, and the idea that his messages may be shared through his books decades from now is exciting.

All the books are available through Amazon.

As the pandemic ended, Jones put on his basketball shoes and gathered up his bag of basketballs and other tools of the trade and hit the circuit again. He said when the first show in Long Island, New York became a reality, he found himself oddly nervous, despite having done thousands of shows.

“That first show back, that one was scary because I was nervous that I wouldn’t be OK,” Jones said. “But seeing people laughing and dancing brought a tear to my eye, and many teachers were the same.”

It was an outdoor performance, and he said it was special for him and for the staff because they got to see kids getting together as one and having a fun time.

“Once I got into the show, I felt like I was home,” Jones said. “I was in my comfort zone. It was a cool journey.”

Finally, he encouraged parents to give their children the attention, instruction and encouragement they deserve.

“You only get so many little moments with kids when they are young,” Jones said. “Take those moments and enjoy them. Those kids are going to look back at that and remember those moments.”

Jones said his hope is the kids and parents at his assembly will ingrain his pearls of wisdom and embrace them in striving to be their best.


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