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STUDIO: Lion’s Gate
MSRP: $27.98
RATED: PG
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • More Than A Film
  • Winning Ways: A Look Inside
    Sports Psychology
  • Behind The Music
  • Trailers

 

The Pitch
 
In Akron, Ohio, a group of kids would dominate High School basketball for over a period of 5 years. Even though one of the players would go on to be an NBA superstar, the five of them and their coach each learned valuable life lessons.
 
The Humans
 
LeBron James, Dru Joyce II, Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee
 
The Nutshell
 
Back in 1999, a group of four kids started playing basketball together. They began as friends, and this friendship helped them become quite possibly the best High School Basketball team ever. For four years they dominated other teams, and won a few State Championships along the way.
 
Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Dru, Sian, Willie, and LeBron first got together to play on a travelling team. They went all over the country, winning games and surprising players and coaches with their all-around talent. Coached by Dru III’s father, the four eighth-graders and their travelling team played around the country, gaining experience playing against great talent, and learning what is necessary to win the big game.


Do not be fooled by his size, this kid can ball. This leads to Lesson #1: Never underestimate your opponent.  


Persuaded by a local coach, the teammates decide to bypass the local high school to enroll at the predominantly white St. Vincent’s/St. Mary’s high school. They bring instant success to the school, and gain all the popularity and respect that goes with it. In their first year, they lose only one game and win the Division III state championship.

With that early success in their first year, the coach of the team decides to leave. Receiving an offer from the University of Akron, he moves on, leaving the boys with a lot of questions. This puts Dru Joyce, father of Little Dru, back in the position to coach the kids again. However, with all the media attention on the team, he questions his abilities. Not only does he need to continue with the success of the team, he knows that these boys are growing up, and there’s more to the game than just winning. He makes it his responsibility to use basketball to help this kids learn life lessons. And it takes a while for that to sink in.


As a child, LeBron did not think BIG enough when choosing his headwear.

 
 
The Lowdown
 
The way this movie is promoted is by touting it as LeBron James’ road to success. However, that does a great disservice to the accomplishments of this group of kids and their coach. As the film starts, Coach Joyce talks about how the game of basketball is a vehicle that takes these (and many) young boys to success.

More Than A Game is about this spectacular team, not just Lebron. Each of the teammates and the coach have their own story, we get to learn about a coach stressed out trying to coach a successful team. A new player to the team has to learn about friendships and sharing the ball. The best individual story revolves around the coach’s son, Dru. A player of smaller build, he carries a pretty big grudge about his size. During one of the championship games, he does something so spectacular on the court, you have to see it to believe it. He shuts the critics up pretty stunningly.


Now THAT’S thinking big, LeBron!


One criticism I have of More Than A Game is that with its abundance of basketball footage, the film never really digs into how exactly Coach Dru motivated them or shares any insight of these values. There is plenty of talk on how much pressure there was on him, and although we do see some of the failure that the team has, we don’t get any insight on how they deal with it, or learn from it, other than the next footage that shows them winning again.
 
 
If you are a sports fan, you owe it to yourself to watch this. If you are a basketball fan, it’s required viewing. Lucky to have all the footage they need, the director Kristopher Belman is able to illustrate the game and what’s important and necessary to win. It gives great examples of success, and what can happen when that success goes to your head. There are many excellent examples of sacrifice, dedication, and maturity. I highly recommend More Than A Game.


Little known fact: A young Lew Alcindor (who later changed his name to
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)once birthed a Manitou during a post game press conference.



The Package
 
The special features on the More Than A Game include a nice piece about Kristopher Belman and his process at making this documentary. Beltran was originally filming a 10 minute documentary about these kids during their high school success, and Coach Dru let him come in and film for it. Belman, nicknamed Cameraman, realized that this team was special because of the time together they had spent off the court. He then realized that 10 minutes was not enough to document these kids.

Also included on the DVD is Winning Ways: A Look Inside Sports Psychology, a short about the benefits and advantages that kids get when playing sports. It’s a very intelligent discussion about the possibility that intense competition can be a double edged sword: it can help with hard work, controlling emotions, etc. However, if the competition is put on kids at too early and age can hurt kids.

Rounding out the special features is a Behind The Music short, and trailers for other Lionsgate films.
 
 

8.5 out of 10