top of page

Shooting Stars is a slam dunk biopic on the early years of King James

After spending some time directing episodic television and music videos, director Chris Robinson returns to the world of biopics in Shooting Stars from Peacock. Robinson previously impressed fans with his vision for BET'S highly successful miniseries, The New Edition Story, in 2017, so it's no surprise that he's behind the camera for a biopic on the high school years of Lebron James.

Juel Taylor, Frank E. Flowers, and Tony Rettenmaier pen the script for the film, an adaptation of the same-titled book by LeBron James and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger. In the 1990s, a young LeBron James (Marquis "Mookie" Cook) and his three best friends Lil Dru (Caleb McLaughlin), Willie McGee (Avery S. Wills, Jr.), and Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage) called themselves the "Fab Four," after the famed Michigan Wolverines' "Fab Five" of that era. From the moment we meet them, we realize this group of friends, under the guidance of coach Dru Joyce (Wood Harris), is connected by more than basketball.

So, when the coach at the top basketball school in their district threatens to separate them by putting Lil Dru on junior varsity, the Fab Four decide to switch schools to be able to play varsity together, joining the team at a predominantly white Catholic school instead. The community takes this as an insult, but the boys' dedication to each other is more important than anything else.

With their new coach Keith Dambrot (Dermot Mulroney), a disgraced former college coach seeking redemption of his own, the boys, along with former rival and new teammate Romeo Travis (Sterling "Scoot" Henderson), will face battles not only on the court but in real life, in their quest to become national champs, and will rediscover that what matters most about the game is the people playing beside you.

The Fab Four was previously the subject of the 2009 documentary More Than a Game which, while good for some, only scratched the surface of the group. At the time, Lebron hadn't made the "Decision," nor did he have a ring. In 2023, Lebron is two decades into his career, the recipient of four NBA championships and numerous other accolades. So, it makes sense that he gets a biopic now.

For those who think the film is a vanity piece about Lebron, I can assure you it's not. When the movie starts, Lil Dru is the centerpiece of the narrative as his decision sets everything in motion. Caleb McLaughlin continues to impress with his acting ability, and while he's part of an ensemble on a particular Netflix show, it's clear that he has the chops to transition into a successful adult career.

In the role of young Lebron James, Marquis Cook impresses as well. James and the filmmakers could have easily cast Bronny James to portray his father; however, knowing the internet, Lebron would get dragged for nepotism. Using an unknown was the right move, allowing James's larger-than-life persona to become humanized. There aren't notable dramatic moments required, which is good, but in contrast to the real-life footage from More Than A Game, Cook does Lebron justice.

The other actors that make up the Fab Four sometimes get less narrative time than Caleb and Cook but deliver solid performances. As the coaches, Wood Harris and Dermot Mulroney provide the mentorship you would expect. It was also good to see Algee Smith in a small role as Willie's older brother.

I was engrossed in the tale of Shooting Stars. The movie thoroughly covers all significant aspects of LeBron's high school story. I wish it were a 13-episode series so we could delve deeper into the story of the Fab Four. Nevertheless, Shooting Stars is a solid biopic with solid basketball action and honest performances from the cast.

Final Grade: B+

Shooting Stars is available to stream on Peacock tomorrow.


Commenting has been turned off.
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page