Co-writer/director Kristopher Belman documents the rise of King James, beginning with the fateful and mythic assembly of his first-round table in Akron, Ohio. The pre-teen LeBron James hooks up with Dru Joyce (whose father coaches their first traveling AAU basketball team), Sian Cotton and Willie McGee and forges bonds of brotherhood lacking in his own upbringing with his single mother who was barely able to keep their family together.
James had visible talent but wasn’t the immediate star — that would be the diminutive Joyce with the sweet three-point stroke and the feisty attitude of every little-big man.
Yet, as the Fab Four transition into high school (and a more suburban academy at that), James ascends to new heights and takes the crew with him, adding the reluctant Romeo (Travis) into the mix.
Belman obviously captured every single detail of the lives of these young men during their high school careers and edited the footage into the requisite odyssey of greatness fitting an ego of James’ stature. But while it lacks the poignant travails of the far superior Hoop Dreams, it provides a rather heartwarming portrait of James as a loyal young man and friend of a group of guys who indeed played — and did so together — for the love of the game.
Coach Dru echoes the clichés of every single coach to step on the hardwood, attesting to his desire to use the game to teach his players about more than life, but this film finds the truth in the cliché. Grade: B