The roots of LeBron’s ascendance to become a Shooting Star

LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger collaborate on this memoir of James' early years and high school career.

These are exciting days for LeBron James.

After some minor early season struggles adjusting to playing with fading superstar Shaquille O’Neal, his Cleveland Cavaliers are riding an 11-game winning streak and sit  atop the league’s standings.

He is putting up video-game like statistics on a nightly basis, often bringing out even more jaw dropping dimensions to his game in the process.  His most recent revelations: channeling Michael Jordan’s “spectacular move” in the 1991 finals against the Los Angeles Lakers when he started going for a right hand dunk, switched gears in mid-air, and went to his left hand off the glass; and putting on a three-point shooting display against the New York Knicks that saw him draining shots from closer and closer to half court and had the Knicks admit later that they were standing around and watching him in awe.

And he’s looking at possibly the most lucrative contract in league history this summer, when he could become a free agent.

The “smart money” says James is headed to the bright lights of New York, the nation’s cultural capital and the base for close friend Jay-Z.

I’m not so sure.

The Cavaliers are built to maintain their elite status for the foreseeable future. James already has all the exposure he could possibly want.

Above all, he’s deeply tied to Ohio and his hometown of Akron.

James and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger explain just how deep the bond runs in Shooting Stars, James’ memoir of growing up in Akron and forging unshakable times with his basketball teammates and brothers as they set out on their quest to win a national championship.

James comes from humble roots, and writes openly about moving around many times during his early years after his then-16-year-old mother Gloria gave birth to him.

He also talks about learning to play basketball and his dawning awareness of his emerging talents.

But Shooting Stars is at base a paean to the brotherhood he formed with Dru Joyce, or “Little Dru”, burly big man Sian Cotton, hard-headed Romeo Travis, and mature role player Willie Cotton during the course of their years playing first on an AAU team, and then later for Catholic School St. Vincent-St. Mary.

In a move that basketball fans will recognize as typical of how James plays the game, he shifts a lot of the attention to his teammates.

Other reviews have criticized the book for James’ venting at the media and for giving insufficient insight into James’ inner thoughts, and I will say that I found the language a bit stilted and unnatural sounding at parts.   His articulation of, and movement toward, the realization of the dream the teammates hatched also feels a tad formulaic.

That said,  James writes openly about how he is haunted by his failure to deliver in a precious few games during the course of his record-setting his school career, and how he remembers those moments far more vividly than the myriad successes he achieved.

I could relate to that.

I still remember poor decisions I made at the end of two YMCA League games on a team with my brother Mike and our dear friend Arthur Sneider in 1993.

Beyond that, James also speaks about the arrogance and dissension that gripped the team during its junior year and contributed to that being the only season in which they did not win the state championship.   To some degree, this disharmony came about due to the coaching change from the fiery Keith Dambrot,  a white coach whose use of a racial epithet had led to the implosion of his NCAA coaching career, to Dru Joyce, or Big Dru.

As Shakespeare famously wrote, though, all’s well that ends well, and the reader can rest assured that life on and off the court has a happy ending, at least through the end of high school.

Shooting Stars may not be great literature, but it is an entertaining look at one of the sporting world’s greatest stars, who is possibly heading toward his first of many NBA championships and who faces a possibly career changing decision this summer.

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