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For LeBron James, Toronto festival is “More Than a Game”

September 10, 2008

rtr21nfu.jpgBefore he became King James of the basketball court, he was a boy from the ‘hood who grew up under the media spotlight from the time Sports Illustrated crowned him “The Chosen One”.

The story of LeBron James and the storied state championship team he lead at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s high school is well-documented, but what isn’t as well known is the story of friendship and loyalty among the boys he played with. They happened to be pretty good at basketball, too.

More than a Game,” a documentary by first-time director Kristopher Belman, that debuted at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, follows James and his teammates Willie McGee, Sian Cotton, Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce III on their journey to the state championship.

Born in Akron, Ohio, the same hometown as James, Belman decided to turn a camera onto a high-school basketball team for a small school project. It later turned out to be more — much more. Never-before-seen footage and candid interviews show how the boys handled growing up, on and off the court, under the guidance of Coach Dru Joyce.

The movie received a glowing reception from audiences at its Saturday world premiere, and James was said to tear up at the screening.

That same day, rain threatened to put a damper on a crowd gathered in the heart of downtown Toronto, waiting for the James, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ No. 1 player, to show up and judge a slam dunk contest. Things appeared to take a turn for the worst as a crew gave up trying to set up an NBA regulation net because they couldn’t get it off the truck. Eventually organizers resorted to the type of basketball net that may be found at the end of a suburban driveway.rtr21nkv.jpg

But the gray sky and equipment change didn’t seem to dampen spirits. In a huddle before the contest got started, dunkers received instructions like “don’t hang by the elbow on the rim”. If the net broke – and it was easy to see how it could with the force of some of these dunkers – the event would be over.

And it was little wonder to any of those who had seen ”More than a Game” that – just as a Cadillac Escalade drove onto the makeshift court on a closed city street and King James stepped out to judge – the sun started to shine. And the contest was on.

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