RUSSIAVILLE — Jim “Basketball” Jones’ ability to juggle multiple basketballs spinning through the air opened the door to a career as a motivational speaker.
But originally, spinning basketballs was the only way Jones felt accepted by his peers.
Jones visited Western School Corp. Wednesday and today to share with students his story of being diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age and spending all of elementary school in special education. He felt alienated from his classmates until the seventh-grade talent show, when he showed off his ability to spin basketballs — something his older brother had taught him.
The other students commended him on the effort, so Jones spent more time practicing and showed up to the talent show each year with more and more tricks. In high school, the Ohio resident started performing at Cleveland Cavalier games, but school was still a struggle. In 10th grade, he was reading at an elementary level, so his mother stepped in to read his assignments out loud to him so he could pass his classes.
Jones decided to pursue a college degree and attended Bowling Green State University, where he went on to graduate as the outstanding senior of his class and was recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top business students in the country. He credited his success to his mother’s unfailing support.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years to teach one lesson: we all learn over time. Don’t kick your dreams or books under the bed because somebody treats you like you’re different,” he said. “Just spread your wings and give effort, because you have been born to soar.”
Jones’ moving story was packed into the final minutes of his presentation. The bulk of his show consisted of showing off his basketball spinning tricks, joking with students, taking volunteers for free-throw challenges and playing a quick game of Simon Says.