7/1/10

"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

Lebron James smoked marijuana. In high school. Also drank alcohol with some teammates from St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron. Big deal. They were just teenagers then and if you remember this image just a little when you are reading Shooting Stars, you will see how Lebron James was a kid with an extraordinary talent who experimented just like every other teen his age. He lived, breathed and ate basketball because not only was it his passion, it saved his life. His words on the first page of the Prologue, "I would like to say I go to St. Vincent for the fine academics, but that would not be true. I go there to play basketball with three friends who have become my brothers, Little Dru and Sian and Willie". Lebron James was an only child who really kept his life together after a troubled upbringing. His teammates were the family he never had. This book is like having a chat over video games and pizza with Lebron himself. Let's discuss some key points (Sports Illustrated Front cover and the infamous Hummer) and reveal my flick pick of the week.

A Lesson in Astronomy

A shooting star is actually a blazing path a meteoroid traces as it enters the earth's atmosphere and burns out. So by Buzz Bissinger and Lebron James collaborating on a book of the same name, are they trying to say Lebron will eventually burn out? Like a crash and burn? This is the only thing besides the Hummer incident (we'll get to that later) that made me shake my head a little. For the most part, I think Buzz Bissinger does a great job of writing Shooting Stars in Lebron James' voice. He also wrote Friday Night Lights about high school football so he knows a thing or two about young athletes. Lebron James is taken down a notch in this book to an accessible level and becomes human, like the kid next door. James is very candid about the many people who wanted his St. Vincent-St. Mary (his high school) to fail. Some members of the community were outraged by the way young athletes like James were being peddled like cattle from coast to coast by officials at St. Vincent-St. Mary Catholic High school. Too bad nothing has really changed.

A Lesson in Egos

Who could forget the infamous Sports Illustrated cover with Lebron holding a golden basketball being deemed, "The Chosen One". Who would have thought the spotlight on a kid of seventeen years could have been both the best and worst thing that could have happened to him. Sure, it got him noticed even more and helped promote him but as the book describes, it opened the floodgates of scrutiny. Take for instance the Hummer his mom bought him. Lebron describes it as a gift from a mother to her son and didn't understand the big deal made about it. However, when a car of that calibre costs way more than his mom could realistically afford considering their financial situation, I could see how school officials would suspect that maybe teams or schools looking to recruit Lebron helped out with the purchase.

Also, Lebron James concedes the arrogance which was born from his Sports Illustrated cover story contributed to the only state championship loss he ever had. He tells us in the book he and his teammates lost the state championship in 2002 as a result of the arrogance he and the rest of the team developed after the infamous SI cover story (February 18th, 2002 issue -look it up). I think this draws an interesting paradox to the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Cleveland Cavaliers decide to bench Lebron James for two games before the playoffs start in order to rest him. Some might say that was pretty arrogant (including yours truly) of the Cavs coaching staff to put all their eggs in one basket. And where did it get the Cavs? No further in the playoffs, a coach getting fired and Lebron looking to get a plane ticket out of Cleveland. Nice. Maybe Cavs' management should have read this book.

Flick Pick of the Week

I am very excited to give you this week's pick: Coach Carter starring Samuel L. Jackson. I absolutely without a doubt hail this one as my favourite movie of all time. The fact it is based on such an incredible true story is one thing but it shows the power of a coach willing to look out for and really stick up for a bunch of kids who everyone was willing to cast aside. You know a movie is great when they cast someone in the lead and you can't imagine anyone else playing the role. Maybe Denzel Washington but Samuel L. Jackson brought a certain edge the film needed. One Tree Hill fans will like to note the creator of this popular series Mark Schwahn also co-wrote the screenplay for Coach Carter. Not a real fan of One Tree Hill but Mark Schwahn sold me on this one scene (without giving too much away for those of you who haven't seen it) which solidified the intense passion and mutual respect Coach Carter was able to establish in his young team. Timo Cruz (played by Rick Gonzalez) stands up and recites "Our Greatest Fear". When you watch it this weekend, think of me during that scene.

Next thursday, we will be discussing Character Driven: Life, Lessons and Basketball. It's another player-author collaboration by Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and Gary Brozek. Before you all get excited and email me saying "of course YOU would look for a book about the Lakers", this one kind of fell into my lap. Knowing about his family and what he's been through pursuing basketball and his daughter being in and out of hospitals, I was intrigued to learn more about the Lakers' now not-so-silent warrior. Happy reading and see you on Tuesday for another serving of "Jiggly Bits".

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