Today, Peacock released a new biopic, Shooting Stars, on the early life of LeBron James and based in part on his 2009 memoir of the same name, co-authored by Buzz Bissinger. The Akron native has been covered as much, if not more than any athlete since Michael Jordan; nonetheless, Shooting Stars offers a charming — sometimes awkward — take on James’ high school rise into the superstar he would become.
Read on for five takeaways from the film that we ducked out of work this morning to watch.
Don’t Know Sports? Doesn’t Matter
The film is about as digestible as they come, leaning away from niche references that might exclude the viewer who only ever watched the 2016 championship games — like me. There are obvious winks of foreshadowing, like an early moment where LeBron criticizes tattoos as a dumb thing to do, but the otherwise nerdy references that some basketball lovers might expect are seemingly absent. No talk of triple-doubles and the like.
Friendship and Growing Up
While Shooting Stars eschews a nitty-gritty approach to sports — there’s rarely talk of stats or historical players — it makes for a decent coming-of-age story about a group of friends struggling to maintain orbit around the superstar in their ranks. Early on in the film, you might hardly know it was about James’ personal career. Rather, we focus on a charming relationship between four friends, soon to be five, who dream big as they ball all day, game all night and remain naïve to the approaching responsibility of their collective talent.
Around the 30-minute mark, however, we begin to hear LeBron’s name more and more as the teen garners the attention of local adults and, later, the likes of Sports Illustrated and national news.
Swensons All Day, Every Day
The biopic was filmed at several locations around Akron and Cleveland, including Case Western Reserve University for some of the game footage. The star location, however, is good ol’ Swensons Drive-In, where James and co. often retreat for a quick bite and the occasional bit of drama. Considering the burgers were first served in the parking lot of Buchtel High School — also prominently mentioned in the film — the Ohio food staple makes for a fond and familiar sight in a movie that largely takes place in gyms, locker rooms and basements.
Back to the ‘90s
While the sports references seem few and far between, there’s a healthy dose of nostalgia fueled by ‘90s and ‘00s hits like Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day” and further tracks from the likes of Nas and Outkast. For the gamers, the sight of NBA 2K on a boxy old TV in a basement ought to bring back summer memories you probably haven’t recalled for decades.
While the acting can be a bit quaint, even awkward for chunks, the energy from Marquis Mookie Cook feels genuine and vulnerable. This might have something to do with the fact that the young actor is currently a rising star at the University of Oregon playing ball. As we watch the character struggle to maintain old and new relationships amid a tumultuous rise to fame, you have to wonder how much of the acting reflects Cook's current mindset in his day-to-day life.
Check out the movie on Peacock, streaming now.
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