Now You Can Get An Insight Into One Of The Greatest Basketball Teams In History And How Friendship Made It So, A Documentary Review Of ‘More Than A Game’
“We are family, and you play your heart out for your family”
More Than A Game is an inspiring documentary covering an 11-year journey of 4 friends and their coach who achieved the unthinkable and changed the course of their pre-determined lives. More poignantly, this film features the rise and creation of the mega-star we know today as LeBron James. This however, is not just a story about an exceptional basketball team and their determination to defy the odds. This is a story about a father and a son, about friendship; this is more than a game.
Described, as one of the greatest high school basketball teams in all history St-Vincent’s St-Mary’s became the birthplace for disregarding expectations.
The ‘Fab Four’ (LeBron James, Little Dru, Sian, Willie) met in junior school where they fortified an undeniable bond. Having come from humble beginnings with the Salvation Army ‘s charity, Coach Dru (Little Dru’s father) organized a travel basketball team where the chemistry between the young players exploded. The AUU Tournament exposed the players to a level of financial possibilities and what the future might hold for them. However, what became evident was how their friendship was the same on court as it was off court and no matter the financial backing you might have, “on the court, everyone is the same”. Clearly the underdogs, the team possessed a ‘never say die attitude’ and set the scene for what was to come.
With Little Dru determined to overcome his height and play basketball, he made the decision to attend St-Vincent’s St-Mary’s high school instead of the conventional ‘back inner city school’. A decision made due to the opportunities afforded to him by the current head basketball coach- Keith Dambrot. Due to the loyalty possessed by the group of friends, they followed suit and were perceived as ‘choosing race’ when they chose the mixed race school. The community felt betrayed but for the 4 players choosing their friends meant they would gladly suffer the outrage. Coach Dru joined the boys at St Vincent St Mary’s rounding out the all-star team. Little Dru and his father’s relationship struggled when the chant from critics referred to nepotism. Little Dru’s transcendent moment was when his sheer talent spoke louder than the words of his critics, winning their first state championship- “It was the size of heart, the size of his brain that mattered”.
With the addition of Romeo on the team, it threatened to challenge the dynamic of an already cohesive team. Romeo brought with him an aggravated attitude with no sense of ‘looking out for anyone’. With the expectations on the team at an all time high, the team continued their winning streak. It didn’t matter that Romeo had not immersed himself in the team and hadn’t began forging friendships “when winning you don’t see as much as you would see if you were losing. Romeo not being as tight as the ‘fab four’ wasn’t so microscopic”. With the resignation of Coach Dambrot, Coach Dru took the head coach position and with it his childhood dream.
With the team playing on a National Level the attention only intensified. With LeBron James being featured on the cover of sports illustrated and being dubbed the ‘chosen one’ the star power of both LeBron and the team amplified. The team developed an invincibility trait and it became more difficult for Coach Dru to provide them with any form of education. A “we can do whatever we want, we are going to win anyway’ attitude emerged with a complacency creeping in due to their status which, ultimately became their downfall. Coach Dru had ‘dropped the ball’ when the team needed him most. He had begun this journey to provide his son with the realization of a dream and would begin reclaiming the perspective that was once lost. ‘It wasn’t about basketball, it was about these young boys becoming men’ and this required building character and recommitting to not only the game but to each other.
With Willie’s wish to become a basketball player, it was a difficult pill to swallow not being able to start but, his admiration for the sacrifices his brother made to raise him, he made that sacrifice for the betterment of the team. ‘There was something bigger at play here than basketball”. This became the catalyst for Romeo’s immersion into the team. The ‘fab four’ officially became the ‘fab five’. With a new found sense of commitment and chemistry and respect for their coach as a mentor and as a leader the team focused their efforts into winning a national championship.
Sian was explicitly told at a young age he wouldn’t be going to college without a scholarship; he made it his mission to get his coveted college degree. With the number one ranking looming in the distance, Sian was faced with the toughest decision- to play basketball or football. Football was Sian’s ticket to getting a scholarship and so he followed his dream and in turn handed Willie’s his.
Declared ineligible to play, LeBron James felt he had let his teammates down. Being raised by a single mother instilled a fear in LeBron about the possibility of losing her. He managed to find a security on the court and ‘basketball became his sanctuary’. His relationship with his teammates was seen as important as that of his relationship with this mother. On the court he found friends, he found homes, he found father figures. The build up to the game without LeBron James proved to be emotionally and psychologically taxing as it became about proving that this dynamic team was a team and not a ‘one man show’. With the reinstatement of LeBron, the team could finally complete their goal. A goal that had been 11 years in the making, starting in a little gym in Akron Ohio on Maple Street. Friendship became their defining feature and they became indebted to something greater than themselves.
“Basketball is a vehicle, not the end all and be all but, the vehicle to get you from point A to point B”.
Basketball drove 5 young basketball players from inevitable lives in poverty to personal success they could have only dreamed of. Inspired by their love for one another and their determination to break the cycles they had grown up knowing, the friendships these players cultivated propelled their dreams into reality.