‘More Than A Game’ to LeBron & former team

October 1st, 2009

Kristopher Belman was thinking of an idea for an assignment that his professor gave him for his documentary film making class while attending Loyola Marymount University in California. It was only supposed to be 10 minutes or so in length. 

 Belman said, “I signed up for this class kind of on a whim to see what it was like.” 

Being from the Akron area, Belman remembered hearing about five high school basketball players from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School who were making a name for themselves on the

national level.

They called themselves the “Fab Five.” The group consisted of Romeo Travis, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee, Dru Joyce III and LeBron James. 

Belman and the “Fab Five” are on their final leg of a 10 city world tour  for the movie, premiering it at each stop. 

The assignment took off from there as Kris contacted Dru Joyce II, the head basketball coach for St. Vincent-St. Mary, in hopes of gaining permission to film and follow these five remarkable young men.

“My mantra from when I was first granted permission was ‘stay out of the way.’ I felt like it was an unbelievable opportunity for me to be given this access. So I didn’t want to do anything to put it in jeopardy,” said Belman. 

At first the team called him the “Camera Man,” and Belman joked that they just recently learned his real name. But according to Coach Joyce, it was a sign that he was trusted.

“Once you’re in, you’re family,” said Coach Joyce referring to Belman’s relationship with the “Fab Five.” 

Belman admitted that some of the footage in the movie was actually the work of the players. They would take the camera from him and do a little directing and producing of their own. 

James said the initial reaction to Belman was that they were just helping out a kid who was trying to do a school project. However, that relationship with Belman changed over the course of filming.

James said, “[Now] I consider him a friend more than a guy who is a director or business man.”

“More Than A Game” illustrates a lot about each member of the “Fab Five,” but Belman couldn’t convey all the players’ feelings towards each other.

Their trust and loyalty to one another was something that couldn’t be captured visually in the film, but only through the tone of their voices when asked about their relationships with one another.

Dru Joyce III, or “Little Dru,” said, “It [the movie] shows us for who we are. All those memories, the joy you see, the down times, the good times.”

In the movie, their coach freshman year Keith Dambrot and major reason for attending St. V-St. M, left for his current job as University of Akron’s men’s basketball coach. The emotions of James and his teammates weren’t depicted in the film, but they were hurt.

“I didn’t understand. When I came to grips that deep down inside this guy wanted a second chance. I understood,” said the younger Dru.

James voiced a similar reaction saying that he had reacted before thinking and later understood and realized Dambrot had to do what was best for him. 

James, McGee and the younger Joyce laughed about some of the footage that was left out of the movie. 

One particular part they wished was included was their music class project. McGee talked about how they recorded a music video of each of the five singing and dancing to “Never Scared” by Bonecrusher. 

They reflected on trips to North Carolina for AAU tournaments, the night after they won the state championship their senior year and when they flew to Los Angeles where they were given a limousine ride from the airport. 

The tour kicked off in Chicago, then traveled to Washington D.C.; Akron, Ohio; Beijing, Shenyang and Shanghai, China; Paris, France; and London, England. Ending in New York City and Los Angeles on Friday.

On each stop of the tour, the next series of LeBron’s shoe line, the Nike Air Max LeBron VII was presented to James with the design inspired by that city. 

The designs were done by a local artist from each city. At the end of the tour James will auction off the 10-pair collection and give the proceeds to his global community initiative.

Along with promoting the movie, LeBron and Nike met with the younger community, calling on them to make a change in their neighborhood. 

James also attended a Nike-hosted basketball camp at each city to give kids a lesson or two. 

“I always planned to do something bigger with it [the movie],” said Belman.

This story goes beyond the film. It goes beyond the basketball court. It transcends into a world of loyalty and lifelong friendships. The “Fab Five” is more than a game.