“More Than a Game” is more than a documentary.
With its dramatic storyline, the feature-length film goes beyond any fictional script to capture the inspirational true-story of five young African-American hoopsters and their rise to the top of high school basketball in Ohio. From their time playing together in the AAU until the end of high school, childhood friends Lebron James, Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, and later Romeo Travis, overcome obstacles both on and off the basketball court on their way to becoming state champions. With utter determination and sacrifice, the group, known as the “Akron Fab 5”, dedicate their entire lives to the game of basketball, forging an unbreakable bond along the way.
Directed by Kristopher Belman, the film is orchestrated with great expertise. With a compilation of his own footage, along with a plethora of home-videos, Belman succeeds in giving viewers an in-depth look at the journey of the “Akron Fab 5.” The storyline draws on viewers emotions via touching anecdotes and heart-warming moments of overcoming differences and uniting at key moments.
The story starts off with a deep, resonant voice say,”Basketball is a vehicle to get you from point A to point B. Use basketball, don’t let it use you,” setting the tone for the rest of the film.
Growing up in Akron, Ohio, the young hoopsters are first brought together by Dru Joyce II, who becomes their long-time coach and mentor. The group starts off playing for a local Akron AAU team. After entering a few tournaments, the team begins to realize their potential. Instantly, the young men find chemistry on the court, which soon translates to a close friendship away from basketball.
The film continues in chronological order, portraying the growth of the players as friends and as teammates. After middle school, when it comes time to decide which high school to attend, the boys elect to keep the team together and attend St Vincent-St Mary, a mainly Caucasian high school. Thus begins their venture, gaining national recognition along the way with their dominant style of play.
For the most part of their journey, the group is looked at as a team equal in skill. However, once the boys get to high school, the main focus turns to Lebron James, who elevates his game to a higher level than the others. Thus begins the media frenzy – foreshadowing what’s ahead for James.
Dubbed “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated, James is thrust into the national spotlight. James soon finds himself being suffocated by the media attention. He struggles to keep his composure during various allegations made against him, threatening his eligibility as an athlete. James over comes the circumstances and finds retreat on the basketball court. By senior year in high school, the “Akron Fab 5” go on to win the Ohio state title and are ranked #1 in the nation, capping their incredible journey. James goes on to achieve the group’s common dream of becoming a NBA superstar.
This documentary certainly plays its parts to humanize Lebron James. Throughout his amateur and professional basketball career, James has built a bad reputation amongst fans. This film goes into great lengths to shows the side of his life that very few people outside of basketball are aware of. As someone who has always rooted against James, it helped me to gain a better understanding, and more respect, for Lebron James both as a person and as a competitor.
While most cameras focus on the court, only Belman manages to capture the remarkably personal exchanges that occur in the locker room as the team prepare for their games and celebrate their victories. This in turn gives the film a personal touch, something viewers can relate to.
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