(CNN) -- Making the catch was never a life or death matter for Jeff Bryant until a baby dropped from a burning apartment building in a Portland, Oregon, suburb fell into his hands Saturday morning.
If Bryant had failed, the boy would have landed on a concrete parking lot. As it was, the child and his mother survived, but two other sons of the mother died in the blaze.
Bryant discovered the Milwaukie apartment building was on fire as he walked out the door of his nearby residence around 9:30 a.m.
"I could hear buzzers and saw black smoke as I walked down the alley," Bryant told CNN. "Then I saw a woman hanging out of a fourplex holding a baby in her hands."
Without hesitating, Bryant dumped the coffee cup he was carrying, ran to the building and yelled at the woman to drop the baby to him, he said.
"Are you sure you'll catch him?" Bryant recalled the woman shouted at him.
"Of course I will," Bryant said he replied. "I knew for a fact that I was not going to drop that baby."
Bryant, who played basketball in the eighth grade, said he wasn't thinking about snagging a rebound.
"It had nothing to do with my hands, it had to with coordination," Bryant said.
That, said Bryant, and, "I pictured one of my own children hanging out that window."
The woman, whom authorities identified as Kimberly Hasty, 24, then dropped her 1-year-old son, Wani Lemi, into Bryant's arms. Bryant then ran to the far side of the parking lot to get the child away from the intense heat. Hasty then jumped out of the second-story window of her apartment.
Bryant wrapped Wani in a quilt a friend brought to him. He said he then told others who arrived at the scene to take Hasty away from the burning building.
"I was worried the windows were going to explode," Bryant said. "Which they did."
Bryant said the flames were so large they threatened other buildings in the complex, including his own.
Bryant said he then told his wife and two children to get out of their apartment.
Clackamas Fire District 1 spokesman Steve McAdoo said it took three minutes for firefighters to respond to the blaze. By the time they arrived, the baby and his mother had been rescued and the apartment was engulfed in flames.
Two of her other sons -- 4-year-old Ladu Lemi and Appolo Lemi, 5 -- died after firefighters pulled them from the burning apartment building. An autopsy by the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office found that the boys had died of smoke inhalation.
McAdoo said that had Bryant not been there, the blaze could easily have killed all four family members.
Hasty and her surviving son were listed in stable critical condition at a nearby hospital, authorities said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Bryant was reluctant to accept being called a hero.
"I just thought it was the correct thing to do," he said. "If it was me and my child, I would hope a passerby would do the same thing for me."