By Alex Florez
Rated: Not available.
Release Date: 2009-10-02
Starring: Kristopher Belman, Brad Hogan
Official Website: http://www.morethanagamemovie.com/
For ‘Sportcenter’ junkies like myself, More Than a Game will feel like one of those pre-game packages leading up to the final game of a championship series. The ones that sum up the obstacles the players have overcome to reach the summit of their sport. The ones that delve into their personal lives, recounted by their family, friends, coaches and the journalists that have tracked them. Tragedy. Redemption. All so that when we next see these athletes on the field or on the floor they are human to us once again. All done to make the ‘game’ that much more compelling. After all, what would sports be without a narrative?
Avid basketball fans out there will certainly be quite familiar with this documentary having lived through, just a few years ago, LeBron James’ meteoric rise to NBA superstardom. Of course, the story they got was written by the media: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and virtually every newspaper across the country.
For those that don’t follow sports at all, the story goes that five talented young high school basketball players from Akron, Ohio including future NBA star LeBron James are coached by a charismatic but inexperienced player’s father and together embark on an improbable nine-year journey from a decrepit inner-city gym to the doorstep of a national high school championship.
Along the way, the close-knit team is repeatedly tested — both on and off the court — as James’ exploding worldwide celebrity threatens to destroy everything they’ve set out to achieve together.
What director Kristopher Belman does, is turn this documentary into a compelling coming of age film that expands on the boys’ friendship and their loyalty in the face of great adversity. Easily, this movie could have been fictionalized and either turned into ‘Hoosiers’ (Gene Hackman) or ‘Coach Carter’ (Samuel L. Jackson) to ham up the ‘underdog’ story. Thankfully, the risk wasn’t taken and the story is told through the players’ own words. Nevertheless, the movie never feels quite as honest as it should be and I couldn’t help but think that more than anything, it’s a gift to LeBron’s former teammates as they finally get the recognition they deserve.
Come to think of it, my feelings on the film are a lot like the relationship I have with the athletes I follow. I Don’t quite buy into the image they create for themselves but somehow still find myself rooting for them.