For most, the name LeBron James didn’t enter your consciousness until that famed Sports Illustrated cover dubbing him, “The Chosen One.” From then on, the remainder of the traveling circus that became his high school career was reduced to highlight reel dunks and off-the-court transgressions, mainly Mama James’ purchase of the infamous H2 that almost got Bron banned. (It was a pair of free throwbacks that ultimately got him suspended for violating amateur rules until the courts reversed the decision.)
Lost in LeBron’s slow, singular march to the pros was his supporting cast and his actual accomplishments during his Ohio origins—outside of the likes of individual awards such as Slam Dunk champion, etc. And it’s there that the film More Than A Game picks up the story.
The film begins at square one, with LeBron and his best friends in basketball—Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, and Willie McGee (Romeo Travis joins later)—and the quote, “Basketball is a vehicle to get from point A to point B.” Therein lies the pull of the film, covering in rich, emotional, inspiring detail the Ohio chapter of LeBron’s legacy as it seemingly draws to a close at the end of this NBA season.
The focal point, though, isn’t LeBron but involved parent-turned-coach Dru Joyce II who molded the 9 year-olds into a team with unparalleled chemistry due to their closeness. He was right there, guiding them during their humble beginnings as they struggled to establish a presence outside of native Akron, selling duct tape for their AAU uniforms. And right through to the end as they navigated destructive media scrutiny to become the greatest high school team ever.
Throughout, the doc juxtaposes their rise through the years with the impending senior-year state championship game, the last the “Fab Five” would play together. Indeed, the film does much to illustrate that their success in overcoming better-financed opposition and immaturity wasn’t all LeBron’s talent, but the undeniable strength of family. The film’s most powerful moment comes when 4’10’ point guard Dru Joyce III takes the court as a freshman to an arena of laughter with the state title on the line. Emboldened by the presence of his friends on the court with him and his own “fuck you” ethos, Lil’ Dru goes 7-for-7 from behind the arc, captivating the crowd in awe and claiming the title for St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.
But naturally, sure to pique your interest the most is LeBron’s personal struggle and those candid moments of the basketball god prior to his deification, as a bling’d-out, innocent teen rapping along to “P.I.M.P.” (The film’s music is era-appropriate, with cuts like Jadakiss’ “We Gonna Make It” and Mr. Cheeks’ “Lights, Camera, Action.”)
The scene of LeBron walking out on his home court with his four teammates and best friends on Senior Night isn’t the last image, but undoubtedly one of the lasting ones of More Than A Game. Instead of walking out with family, he pays tribute to the family he never had—the film’s main function, in fact. Thus, as LeBron suits up alongside Shaq, Delonte, and Mo, the absence of Sian, Dru, Willie, and Romeo by his side just won’t feel right from the stands—and probably for LeBron as well.