A Way With Words

Bryson Jamal Stevens’ vivid imagination, talent for writing and love for sports allowed him to become a self-published author at the age of 9. His debut book follows the exploits of the Net Rippers, a fictional basketball team that turns to hard work in the face of long odds. 

by Terri Webster

With commitment, dedication and accountability, there is no way a team can lose.” The motto belongs to the Net Rippers, a fictional basketball team at the heart of young Bryson Jamal Stevens’ first published work of fiction: “Creating the Winning Team.” Available on Amazon.com, the 83-page book hit shelves on July 9, 2021.

A story brewed in Bryson’s mind when he was 8, and the plot sprang to life when he used his Xbox to put together a dynamic team of players and saw them work hard to achieve success. He loosely selected some characters from his actual life and made up the rest for fun. By the time he turned 9, Bryson had authored and self-published his book while at home during the COVID-19 lockdowns. He now enjoys his dream of being a published author.

Bryson started writing when he was 6. When he traveled with his family on vacations, his mother Taticasejuana always encouraged him to write down his thoughts. It was during this time when ideas filled his mind and his imagination developed. She often repeats one of her favorite quotes for him: “He who holds the pen, owns the story.” Taticasejuana encouraged him to create his own story in his voice, while she served as illustrator for the cover and the inside of Bryson’s book. While Bryson has played a variety of sports, from baseball and soccer to football and golf, he admits he loves basketball the most. He considers himself a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and pays attention to what it takes to put together a successful team.

“I love winning,” he said, “but the players are important.”

“I didn’t know I was going to write a book like that. I just wanted to write something about how to create a winning team.”

By Bryson Jamal Stevens

Bryson believes every player on a team serves an important role and should be given the opportunity to compete. “Creating the Winning Team” follows a few friends, ranging in ages from 8 to 10, who form a basketball team called the Net Rippers. Another team—the Bull Gang—with bigger and older players, ranging in ages from 11 to 13, carries a reputation for bullying opponents.

The story begins with all the children being released from school for an early spring break due to a pandemic. The Net Rippers decide to use their time wisely and make plans to practice every day in preparation for the inaugural 2020 Basketball All-Stars Tournament and an eventual showdown with the Bull Gang. “They believed in themselves and practice,” Bryson said, “and they encouraged each other a lot.” He speaks about some of the fictitious characters as if he knows each one personally, perhaps because he does. While the Net Rippers practiced and organized themselves, their opponents saw no need to work on their skills because they were bigger, better and meaner. Instead, the Bull Gang chooses to rely on their usual intimidation tactics to achieve victory. Finally, game day arrives, and the Net Rippers face the Bull Gang with determination and confidence. Bryson leaves the outcome and the details surrounding it to those who read his book, though he did admit readers could expect a sequel in the not-too-distant future.

Bryson enjoys being homeschooled alongside younger brother Brinceton. Their parents compare them favorably to the two siblings on “Leave it to Beaver,” a popular 1960s sitcom both boys like to watch, along with “Garfield,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and Marvel-related shows. Bryson spends some of his free time reading to his younger brother, creating science experiments with his family and learning about financial literacy with his mother. Bryson and Brinceton even attended a business and public speaking class geared towards children in Grades 1–4 and Grades 5–8.

The young author dedicated his first book to God for giving him the desire to read, expressed gratitude to his mother for teaching him the importance of understanding what he was reading and thanked his grandmother for trusting him with her credit card to purchase books online. Bryson also remains forever grateful to his father, Alfred, who has worked with the City of Atlanta Police Department for 10 years and agreed to fund his son’s writing endeavors while providing additional support and encouragement.

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Bryson found influence outside of his immediate family, too. He credited Dan Moore, owner of the Apex Museum in Atlanta, where he met a 6-year-old author. Bryson recalls standing in line for an autograph, reading the book and realizing soon after that writing was an adventure he wanted to take. Bryson and Brinceton’s love for books can be traced back to before they were born when their mother started a personal library on their behalf. It now houses hundreds of books, including “Creating the Winning Team.” Taticasejuana describes Bryson as a delightful kid who always looks out for others. When she finished reading his book, she asked him why he made some of the choices he made as they relate to the Net Rippers and the Bull Gang.

“Mom,” he said, “we all win when your team wins.”

Click here to read more stories by Terri Webster.

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