More Than a Game
October 2, 2009
If I’m the head of marketing for More Than a Game, I’m thinking when it comes to sports movies, everyone loves a winner and when it comes to sports documentaries everyone loves a superstar. So a documentary about Lebron James’ high school basketball team that won a national championship is the best of both worlds, right?
More Than a Game chronicles the evolution of an Akron, Ohio basketball team from that began playing together in fifth Grade. As one of the players - the chosen one, that is - starts to attract national attention during their run for a championship, their mettle is tested.
The trailer, with its harping on the adversity the kids faced, seems to be trying to evoke Hoop Dreams, except with the happiest ending imaginable. It’s hard to see this film getting a theatrical release without Lebron’s presence, which I understand but also find funny since one of the most broadcasted images in all of media is a Lebron James highlight. Just give them what they want I guess.
The one intriguing wrinkle is the way director, producer, cinematographer, writer Kristopher Belman stumbled onto the project. It began as an assignment in his Introduction to Documentary film class to make a 10-minute short film. Being from Ohio, he decided to make the film Akron based, about a group of basketball players he heard about from St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School. Most interesting about the group, other than their exceptional play, was that they had played together for five years before entering high school.
It didn’t take long before Belman realized he a lot more than ten minutes worth of film on his hands. The team tore through the competition, displaying a magnetic group chemistry, a result of all their years together, both on an off the court. Once Lebron’s star started to reach stratospheric levels, leading to, ESPN crews, Sports Illustrated covers, and nationally televised games, the kids were challenged to keep their focus on basketball.
Because his motivations at first were just to get an A, the team’s coach allowed Belman access inside the lockeroom, which he refused for higher profile crews. You would think since Belman was just some student and not Stuart Scott, the kids were more willing to be themselves. This will no doubt result in some fascinating footage and a rare look at the development of a sports superstar. But this intimate access is kind of a double-edged sword because afterall, Belman was taking Intro to Documentary. So his skills may be, say, a bit limited.
Sounds like it could be an interesting, at times spine-tingling, mess. Despite Lebron’s presence this film will probably have a hard time finding an audience. This year's Spike Lee Joint Kobe Doing Work! didn’t even get real release. And it would take a wide net of theaters to reach all of the NBA devotees it’s targeting. Unless Belman was able to capture something beyond a highlight reel that piques some end of year award buzz, this one’s going to spend most of its life on a Netflix queue. (Tom Macy/BOP)