Monday, March 29, 2010

More Than A Game

On Saturday afternoon 15 people turned out to watch the library's free screening of More Than A Game, a documentary about a high school basketball team and their coach in Akron, Ohio. To borrow from the title, this movie is more than a sports documentary. This movie is about enduring friendships, perseverance and dedication to following dreams, leadership, and teamwork.

Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, Dru Joyce III, and LeBron James started playing basketball together when they were in fourth grade. Dru's father, Dru Joyce II, coached them on an AAU travel team called the Ohio Shooting Stars. The Fab Four then went on to play basketball at St. Mary-St. Vincent High School instead of the inner city school Butchel. Dru decided against attending Butchel because he did not feel he would be given a chance to play there because of his size. Unselfishly, the other three boys followed him to that school so they could all play together.

The tight bond shared by the boys translated onto the court in a big way. As freshmen at St. Mary-St. Vincent the team went 27-0. During their sophomore year Romeo Travis joined the team and at first distanced himself from the "always sharing, giggling" (his words) Fab Four. Dru Joyce III took over as head coach for the team during their junior year.

Each player faced his own set of challenges. Dru had to work extra hard to prove himself because of his smaller size, and the relationship with his father as coach had its problems. Sian did not want to repeat the problems of his father and wanted to go to college to make his family proud. LeBron was raised by a single mother; they moved around often when he was younger. Romeo also moved around a lot as a kid, and sometimes his family didn't have enough food to eat. As a boy Willie moved from Chicago in order to get away from the drugs and alcohol problems of his family. He was raised by his brother and his wife, who were recent college graduates when they took him in.

Dru Joyce II's first year as coach didn't end the way the team had hoped. The boys became complacent because of their winning record and did not want to listen to the coach. This was a wake-up call for Joyce as well, who realized his "job was not teaching the boys basketball but helping them become young men." During their senior year, Willie was pulled from his starting position and put on the bench, which he accepted as a sacrifice for the better of the team. This mature behavior did not go unnoticed; Romeo realized that he "wanted to be a part of something outside basketball" and opened himself up to having friendships with the guys. The Fab Four then became the Fab Five. During their senior year they were determined to not only win a State Championship but a National Championship.

The special features on this DVD are also worth watching. Director Kristopher Belman (also an Akron native) describes how he came to make the movie, which started out as a ten-minute project for an Introduction to Documentary college film class. Another interesting special feature talks about the More Than A Game soundtrack, which includes both hip-hop and rap songs in addition to a score played by an 80-piece orchestra (unusual for a documentary).

The main draw for some people in watching this movie may be NBA star LeBron James. In his junior year he became the focus (and later target) of sports and news media, drawing such immense crowds to the team's games that they had to be played at the University of Akron. But watching More Than A Game, you see that the movie is not a one-man show. Director Belman focuses on the importance of a team and coach working together. You see how a coach's leadership helps change young boys into mature men. The brotherly bonds and success of a team like this doesn't come around everyday. I highly recommend you watch this movie. Since More Than A Game was released on DVD I have watched it several times and have been moved each time I watched it.

Find it in the catalog!

If this is a subject of interest to you, LeBron also wrote a book about his basketball journey with his high school teammates called Shooting Stars: Find it in the catalog!