The other night, I watched the fairly new basketball documentary More Than a Game . For those of you who don’t know, the film follows LeBron James in high school with his teammates and best friends on their quest to become national high school basketball champions. Looking back on it, I wonder why I didn’t catch this documentary sooner. I mean, I love basketball and I love film; therefore, I should love a basketball film, no?
I believe my hesitation started with the fact that LeBron James was the centerpiece of the documentary. Don’t get me wrong, I admire James and his ability, and I am even intrigued by his stardom, especially during his high school years. However, I guess I believed the film would be a mostly superficial film about him and lack a true storyline, so to speak.
After watching the movie, I was dead wrong in my earlier assumptions. I believe this film was good. Scratch that: very good. Director Kristopher Belman does an excellent job showcasing why we play high school basketball, why we follow high school basketball, and why basketball is just more than a game.
While watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but think that this film could have been made following 50, 100, or even 200 different teams and players throughout the country. Yes, the star power of James and a national championship wouldn’t be there, and thus the film probably wouldn’t have had the financing to be made, but the underlying message would certainly be in place: players coming together as a team fighting for conference, regional or state tournaments and making life-long friendships. You don’t need LeBron James to tell this story of what makes this film so good: It happens every year, in every state, in every county, and that is what makes basketball great.
The best part to me of what LeBron James DOES bring to this movie is his reflections on his youth and high-school basketball career. Here is a guy who has played on the highest level, won a gold medal, and is perhaps the most recognizable athlete on the planet not named Tiger Woods. Yet, when asking him about a high school loss or missing a game-winning shot at 14 or even high school practice (yes, AI, practice), he remembers it like it was yesterday. That is the single most telling point to the movie, and anybody who has played high school basketball, and enjoyed it, will tell you the same.
My Dad told me once in high school something to the effect, “You will always remember your last high school game.” Here was a guy who had been in the NBA front office for over 25 years, played with Dr. J and David Thompson, and was coached by Tex Winter in college. At that age, I didn’t believe it. How could that be with everything that he had go on in his life, basketball-wise? It has been at least 12 years since my last high school basketball game, and I still think about it to this day, constantly. I can recite the game like it was yesterday. And, don’t get me started on the game because we lost. Why go back to the zone, Coach Edwards??? Why?????
Lastly, speaking of coaches, all of these fond memories can vanish faster than a rabbit in a David Copperfield magic sketch with the wrong coach. The documentary does a great job of showcasing the importance Coach Dru Joyce II was to these kids from a basketball and life perspective. I loved seeing the parts on Joyce II, a former football player and not a basketball player, where they showed his office and how much studying and learning he did to understand and coach a sport he never played. Joyce II did it all for the love of his own kid, Dru Joyce III, who wanted to be a basketball player. I wish high school basketball, and more importantly, AAU basketball, had more coaches like Dru Joyce II.
If you have the opportunity, catch the movie More Than A Game , as I think you will be surprised just as I was.