LeBron makes sure ex-teammates share spotlight

September 19, 2009 6:45:58 PM PDT
"Shooting Stars" (The Penguin Press, 272 pages, $26.95), by LeBron James: LeBron James has gotten plenty of attention over the years. Now the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar is sharing the spotlight with the childhood friends who helped him get his first taste of basketball glory. James is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world. But his high school team wouldn't have won three national championships in four years without the teammates whom he loved as brothers.

In "Shooting Stars," he tells the story of how he met Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton and Willie McGee. All four came from poor Midwest backgrounds and were connected by a common love for the game.

The cast of characters is compelling.

Joyce is an undersized point guard whose desire to prove himself is so fierce that he lashes out at anyone who questions his abilities. Cotton is a defensive stopper who rebels against authority, coasting in school so people won't think he's smart. And McGee is the quiet kid who grew up in wilting poverty, which gave him a maturity the other teenagers lacked.

The story focuses so much on these three that a reader might wonder how James was the one who ended up in the NBA. For example, after narrating the events of a compelling game, he lists his teammates' statistics, then adds almost as an aside that he, too, happened to have a good game.

James goes into a smidgen of detail about his early years. He describes growing up fatherless in Akron, Ohio, where his sleep was often interrupted by the wail of police sirens. He also talks about his love for playing football and his accomplishments as a talented wide receiver.

But he quickly returns the book's spotlight to his friends.

Doing so maintains the continuity of an interesting story, but readers who want to learn how James got so good will come away disappointed. He doesn't say much about how he developed his talents or honed his work ethic.

At one point he does acknowledge smoking marijuana with his teammates.

The book, co-written by Buzz Bissinger, is a quick read. It's an uplifting tale of bonding, of a handful of friends who grow as tight as brothers as they get squeezed by pressure, expectations and even racism. It's hard not to root for the group, and it's gratifying when their hard work and loyalty to each other leads to a happy ending.

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