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One More Try: A Ben Brown Story
Basketball, skateboarding, and my Dad.
One more try is a great skateboarding fable. Like pretending to make a basket in the final seconds or hitting a walk-off home run, most skateboarding is about that guts or glory attempt. Truth or consequences stuff. It’s where people become heroes.
Another legend of skateboarding is getting the trick and getting it again. “You got one more try in you?”
The answer for these cannon moments should mostly be no. This is a lesson I did not learn from skateboarding. However, it will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Ben Brown was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1944. Following time there and in New York City, his family settled in Rockford, Illinois. He attended Peru State College on a football scholarship and went on to play semi-pro running back for the Omaha Mustangs.
At 5’9”, he had a mean jump shot akin to Alex English. In 1964, he led the basketball team in scoring by averaging 14 points per game for the Peru State Bobcats. Boulevard shoulders and a lower center of gravity made him a shoo-in for the gridiron, but the courts were his love.
I’d arrive in 1986. Soon after, Ben Brown taught me how to run and catch a button hook. Simultaneously, I’d inch my way from the paint to beyond the arc. I attended the Ben Brown School of Basketball as a perimeter role player.
Every season since I could remember, he was shocked the Dever Nuggets front office did not call him up for training camp or when the trade deadline inched closer. A ten-day was all he needed.
In 1992 I saw The Mighty Ducks and discovered a love for hockey. I strayed from the family skiing tradition in 1995 and started snowboarding. A multi-family vacation in 1998 begone my obsession with skateboarding. I’d inch my way from the courts to the skate spot. However, basketball remained a staple.
Fast forward to the summer of 1999, and life was getting cool. I got my first dog. I switched from a Wet Willy/Grind King complete to a Girl/Tensor set-up. I owned zero pairs of jeans and strictly wore athletic fabric cargo pants. I was consumed by skateboarding media, which arrived conveniently sparingly.
The media side of skateboarding has always appealed to me. Pretty early on, I learned Ako and Atiba were camera operators from my same state, also of a similar hue, and were reprehensibly Lakers fans. Before a video camera, I was gifted a film camera. Though our family did not celebrate, I’ll never forget Christmas Day 1999.
Cornerstone Park was five miles from our house and down the street from my middle school. It was the first park I attended with a skateboard. It was where I saw Stevie Williams on the Chocolate Tour. The park was new and also featured fresh courts with glass backboards.
We went to Cornerstone Park to play basketball on the fancy courts for a few reasons:
One of the rims was nine-foot
I wanted to shoot photos
Ben Brown was down to dunk on a nine-foot
We always found ways to intersect interests
It was Christmas, and we would have the place to ourselves
Ben Brown went ahead and did that dunk first try. I wasn’t ready for the timing of the shot as a seventh-grade photographer. Like an idiot — and a tale as old as time — I said, “You got one more try?”
The following events played a significant role in my family financing a video camera a few months later.
Ben Brown went up, the ball went higher, and he collapsed in reeling pain. Again, my timing on the photo was off, but I captured the moment.
One more try ended with a torn patellar tendon and a heavy lesson. While this was terrible, consider the potential excitement that ensued.
My dad’s initial thought was to have me, 13 years old, get the family mini-van and ambulance him home. The park was hardly finished and could have sustained some first-time driver action. My initial moments behind the wheel could have been heroic.
However, he toughed it out, hobbled the half mile back to the parking lot, and drove us home. During a break from hobbling, he even got a picture of me and the dog.
He got surgery and stuck to a strict rehabilitation program, but we never went back to get that dunk. However, it never limited his dream to getting a ten-day contract with the Nuggets. He could still sit in the wing and shoot all day.
I worked for a long time to get revenge on that dunk to prove us 5’ 9’’ folk could get up there. There was maybe a month when I was 19 when I could both dunk and skate a handrail. I could probably still do a handrail, but the dunk is out of the question. Unless they still have that nine-foot at Cornerstone.
Ben Brown passed on January 6, 2023. He probably had one more try in him, but he landed life and handled the whole thing bolts. First try, like a hero.
Thank You for Reading.