Brown Bag Lessons

by Eric Jaren

Founder, Brown Bag Lessons

11/15/2014 - Bellbrook, Ohio

When I was 12 I learned to shoot a Fade Away J (jumpshot).  It took another thirty years to realize I learned a valuable life lesson that day. Practice and determination are not enough.

It was 1977 and I was shooting hoops in the backyard. We had a small concrete patio with a basketball hoop mounted on a wooden 4x4 at the end. The loosely mounted backboard made scoring fairly easy. Basically, anytime the ball hit above rim the board would absorb the bounce and the ball would drop in. Needless to say, my shooting stats were far better than they should have been.  

Since my four sisters were not interested in basketball it was common for me to practice by myself. I was pretty excited when a family friend, Dennis Coffee, stopped by for a visit and I thought he may want to play.    

I asked him if he wanted to shoot 21. He wasn't interested, but soon learned I was more persistent than he was resistant. Like any spoiled 12-year-old brat determined to get his way, I kept asking again and again. When I called him an old man (after all he was something like 34 or 35 years old) it finally struck a nerve—Denny said he would be happy to “take me to school.”

Denny let me take the ball out first. I dribbled left, then dribbled right. Being very short made it easy to razzle and dazzle and create space. I went for my first shot Denny and poked me in the stomach. The ball missed the entire backboard.

I yelled, "Foul!  You can't do that!"  Denny didn't argue. He handed the ball back and said “check.”

This time my routine was more guarded. I dribbled left, dribbled right, and quickly took another shot. Another jab in the gut sent the ball wide right.

I complained to stop fouling.

I was pretty fired up this time taking the ball out. First left, then right, looked him in the eye…and you know what happened next.

That was it!  I called him a cheater and headed back in the house.

Denny yelled, "Eric, get back here." Reluctantly, I returned.

He went on, "Eric, in life not everyone is going to play by the rules. There will be times when quitting is not an option either.” He tossed the ball back and told me to figure it out. 

I thought about it for a second and then I understood.

I went back to my routine: dribbled left, dribbled right, and looked him square in the eye. Only this time, instead of shooting, I pump faked and bumped into his chest shifting him the other direction. At the same time, I jumped backwards to get separation and released the ball. It hit the loose backboard and dropped in the basket.

That day, Denny taught me more than basketball. He taught me about life. He taught me that practice and determination are not enough. He taught me that in order to succeed you have to change. You have to adapt to the situation to fit the rules.  And when people don’t play by the rules, I don’t think twice about using the Fade Away J. 

The Fade Away J