Directed by Chris Robinson, Shooting Stars tells the origin story of basketball star LeBron James and his closest friends. The gang fondly refer to themselves as the “Fab 4” (a play off the legendary “Fab 5” from Michigan) and are seemingly inseparable. Their mettle gets tested once LeBron becomes a household name across the country and pressure begins to mount.

The group consists of Lil Dru (Caleb McLaughlin), LeBron James (as himself), Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage), and Willie McGee (Avery S. Willis, Jr.). The boys eventually added Romeo Travis (Sterling “Scoot” Henderson) to the fold, and with that, their cliq was complete.

(from left) Romeo Travis (Scoot Henderson), Lil Dru Joyce III (Caleb McLaughlin), LeBron James (Marquis “Mookie” Cook), Willie McGee (Avery S. Wills, Jr.), and Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage) in Shooting Stars, directed by Chris Robinson.

The film is based on the book Shooting Stars by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger. I applaud the film’s direction, showing the twists and turns the boys went through as a group. As opposed to going overboard with violence, drugs, and sex (like a lot of films do with black kids from “humble beginnings”) the film shows how the biggest difficulty came from within. Not just managing the egos of five boys who were exceptionally talented but the perception of those same kids appearing to turn their backs on their neighborhood to attend a predominately white private school.

Their reason for joining that private school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, was to stay together. Buchtel High School, the public school that they were slated to attend, had a coach that planned to play Lil Dru on the junior varsity team.

It’s honestly a story that deserves a film. It’s a group of young black boys who believe in each other and their abilities, facing a myriad of adverse conditions, with unimaginable talent, who bet big on themselves. As an individual, making a promise to someone that you can do something will hold you personally accountable. But promising a state championship is an insurmountable task that would take literal months to deliver, but the boys did just that.

(from left in yellow) Willie McGee (Avery S. Willis Jr.), Romeo Travis (Scoot Henderson), and LeBron James (Marquis “Mookie” Cook) in Shooting Stars, directed by Chris Robinson.

For those who were too young to see LeBron’s meteoric rise, I can tell you, it was something special. I can remember vividly sitting in my college dorm room watching his highlights on ESPN. High school basketball highlights on a cable channel? Unheard of (we’re talking the year 2000). Once the nation was fully engulfed in LeBron mania, everybody wanted to see his every move. When I say he was big, I mean he was the biggest star in the country, to the point where his high school games were only available on pay-per-view.

Shooting Stars gets a 9 out of 10. Seeing Wood Harris play a father figure in a film is beyond pleasing, as most black cinephiles have watched him grow up before their eyes. Overall, it’s a great and motivating story. If you can get past the sporadic curse words then you should be able to enjoy it with family.

Shooting Stars will premiere on Friday, June 2 on Peacock

-Jon Jones

Photos: Oluwaseye Olusa/Universal Pictures

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