Wednesday, August 15 , 2018, 1:20 am | Fair 68º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘More Than a Game’

A student director follows an unusual group of young athletes, including LeBron James, through their years together on a basketball team

4 Stars — Inspiring

It is unusual to have a video record of an athlete’s rise to fame, but LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t take a normal path into the NBA. His journey was not only filmed by a student, but it also has the feel of a spiritual quest more than simply an athlete’s achievements.

Produced, directed and filmed by Kristopher Belman, More than a Game is a complex documentary that uses home movies, sports broadcasts and Belman’s cinematic work.

As a grad student at Loyola Marymount, Belman heard of the success of a group of students at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his home state of Ohio. Realizing it was an unparalleled phenomenon — a group of four young men who played basketball together since they were elementary students — he also is enamored with the extraordinary skill of James. Heralded as the greatest high school player of all time, Belman creates a documentary that not only portrays James’ unique skill, but focuses on how the team as a whole helped make him who he is today.

However, the film isn’t really about James. It’s about how basketball became a vehicle for the development of character in the lives of the young men. Set within the larger values of the Christian community, the film also focuses on the father-son relationship of Dru Joyce and his son, Dru Joyce III.

When young Dru chose to make basketball his sport even though he was very small, his father dedicated himself to coaching him and his three friends in the Salvation Army gym. They added James, Sian Cotton and Willie McGee to their traveling elementary team. After playing together for years, they add Romeo Travis in high school.

The genius of the film is the weaving of all five of the young men’s personal successes and failures with those of their team. The eventual understanding that sports is more about developing character in maturing young adults than winning games, we join them in their prayers and in their maturation process.

Although the events are historic, we won’t tell the outcome of the sports events, but we will reveal that the experience of this shared journey is inspiring and shows the best of what sports can be when a coach prays for and cares about his or her athletes. It is this message that makes this more than a film.

Discussion:

» What group of people in your life helped you develop character and maturity? Was your coming together with this supportive group a deliberate choice or providential?

» The struggle Coach Joyce and his son, Dru, experienced trying to keep their relationship clear is often typical when parents coach or supervise their children. Do you think having this kind of “dual relationship” is advisable?

» LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school student and signed a $90 million advertising contract with Nike before he ever played professionally. He was Rookie of the Year in 2003-04 and Most Valuable Player in 2008-09. What impact do you think such early success has on celebrity athletes?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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