Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More Than a Game

LeBron James doc is an incurious and narcissistic puff piece

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Basketball superstar LeBron James is the transformative cultural figure of his generation. Just ask him. 

This slick 90-minute promo film — tarted up to resemble a doc — for Nike's crown jewel overflows with energy, style and a great soundtrack, but shows zero insight and honesty. It's a puff piece, an oddly dull tale of James bonding with his childhood pals and teammates from the gritty streets of Akron, Ohio, to the mountaintop of basketball immortality. 

The story draws obvious parallels to Hoop Dreams and For the Love of the Game, superior sports docs that showed the agonies and triumphs of athletes who gave all, but here the drama is questionable because important details are missing, and the outcome is never uncertain. 

LeBron James was a prodigy; alongside his teammates he had a cabinet full of Amateur Athletic Union and middle-school honors. James then bypassed inner-city high school for the affluent, predominantly white St. Vincent-St. Mary private prep, which won one national and two state championships. James somehow managed to bring his teammates and coach Dru Joyce along for the ride, but their arrival in this alien environment gets mere lip service, and, incongruously, not a single white student or player is interviewed. 

Other missing details: There's nary a mention of James' girlfriend, Savannah, or their two children, or the suggestion that anyone involved had any sort of life off the court. 

There are brief interviews with James' mom, who raised him alone, and who caused a firestorm, almost ending his amateur career when she accepted an $80,000 loan for a Hummer. 

It'd be easier to care if James had interesting friends — the talking heads have all the charm of flavorless NBA postgame interviews filled with canned platitudes. James has stayed loyal to his boys and they're protected by the nimbus of his greatness, but even now they're pushed from the spotlight so the King can just shine.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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