More Than A Game

posted October 06, 2009 09:10:00 AM CDT | 13 comments

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Forget that the movie is about LeBron James; it isn’t. Although one of the world’s most celebrated basketball players of today is in the documentary, director Kristopher Belman’s More Than A Game isn’t about the chalk in the air or the dunks. It is, however, about a group of children that bonded in Akron, Ohio and how they grew to stay united through hardship, high school and high expectations.

More Than A Game began before LeBron James became the household name he is today and for that reason, the documentary is able to tap into a more genuine portrayal of life before the now. By using footage shot by Belman during the team’s junior and senior years, early home movies, local media clips and national television coverage mixed with contemporary interviews, the documentary provides a thoughtful and thorough portrayal of the young team through its many feats and failures.

Anyone who’s been a part of or a witness to it knows that youth sports can be inspiring. This film showcases that throughout, refusing to become a James and His Background Singers story. While James is listed as one of the doc’s executive producers, he is not the film’s sole focus. In fact, Belman’s piece is more about the team, than it is about any one person. Dru Joyce, III, LeBron James, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton make up “The Fab Four,” a group of inner city children that became friends and teammates, drawn to one another by similar “Hoop Dreams” (a flick this one has been compared to by some). Later, they would meet and befriend a lonesome Romeo Travis, who would eventually become an integral part of their success. In the film, each player’s story is shared and each one comes with hurdles, humor and heart-touching moments so the celebrations aren’t without tears of joy and pain. Some of those tears come from Coach Dru Joyce (also father of one of the players), who is vital to the team’s achievements and maturation. At every turn, there is an inspirational tone that doesn’t die and Belman does a good job of not only chronicling the players but also providing a deeper and more realistic meaning to the against all odds cliché.

More Than A Game also succeeds because it isn’t simply a film for basketball purists. Instead, its humorous, heart-rending and heart-warming, inspirational moments all resonate with any viewer. In the coming of age documentary, one that is told through different and unique perspectives, each player becomes his own man in the face of adversity strengthened by the unity and loyalty of the team. Sure, it’s about basketball, but as the title says and as the players prove, it manages to be about much more than that.

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