The âMore Than a Gameâ Interview with Kam Williams
LeBron Raymone James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James, a 16 year-old single-mom seduced and abandoned by Anthony McClleland, an ex-con with no interest in parenting. Gloria did the best she could to raise LeBron on her own but that still meant moving frequently, living in the projects, and even temporarily surrendering custody of her son until she could get her finances straightened out.
Fortunately, LeBron found a sanctuary on the basketball court, where he would not only maximize his potential but forge lasting friendships with four teammates he would play with from junior high through high school: Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton. He was also very close to their coach, Druâs dad, who would serve a critical role in shaping his character during his formative years as a father figure.
Of course, everyone knows that LeBron blossomed into a basketball phenom who skipped college and went straight to the NBA where in 2009 he became the youngest player ever to be named league MVP at the age of 24. But few are aware of how loyal, humble and unselfish a man he is as well.
To understand why LeBron has remained so grounded despite being nicknamed King James and being surrounded by all the trappings of overnight success, check out More Than a Game, an uplifting documentary directed by Kristopher Belman. This moving bio-pic chronicles the seven-year sojourn of the Fab Five, recounting both their basketball exploits and the personal challenges each had to face while collectively pursuing theirs hoop dreams.
Here, LeBron talks about the film as he reflects on life and his professional career.
Kam Williams: Hi LeBron, thanks for the time. Iâm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
LeBron James: Oh man, thanks for having me.
KW: I loved More Than a Game. Why did you decide to make this movie about you and your childhood teammates?
LJ: I thought it was time, and the footage that the director, Kris Belman, had shot was unbelievable. He followed us around our whole senior year for what was just supposed to be a ten-minute school project. But after he saw what he had captured on tape, he knew it had the potential to be way more than that. And then when he came to me with the first little trailer that he made, I was like, âWow! Iâm on board. Letâs make something big out of this.â
KW: Well the finished product is very moving. Obviously, I was already well aware of your achievements on the basketball court, but this really related your personal story in a very powerful way. Congratulations!
LJ: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. My life has never been a bed of roses. I think now a lot of people are going to understand where I come from and who I am today.
KW: Part of what is so impressive about you is your loyalty to your childhood friends and your continued connection to your roots, which is something you donât find with a lot of other pro athletes.
LJ: Well, thank you. Iâm very humbled by the things Iâm able to do on and off the court. Iâm grateful to be in this position, and being able to give back really means a lot to me.
KW: What would you say has kept you so grounded?
LJ: My mother, Gloria James, and my upbringing have kept me grounded. When youâre a kid growing up in a single-parent household, it sometimes forces you to mature a lot faster than you might want. In my case, I had to become the man of the house very early. My childhood was never great. We moved from place to place a lot. There were times when we had no definite place to stay. So, a basic level of security was not always there. Therefore, when you finally make it out, and you become who I am today, youâre humbled by the memories of those situations. Youâre kept grounded by those reminders that you didnât always have it all.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
LJ: My childhoodâŚ my childhood was my biggest obstacle.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LJ: A great father, a great friend, a loyal person and someone whoâs always trying to make a difference.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
LJ: When I cook, my favorite thing to make is grilled cheese sandwiches. [Chuckles]
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
LJ: As a very, very great basketball player, but more important than that, as just a great person who dedicated himself to kids and to giving back.
KW: In the movie, you describe your junior high and high school playing days this way: âIt was basketball, but it was more like friendship than anything.â What did you mean by that?
LJ: It was wonderful to make lasting friendships with a great group of guys, and also to have a great coach who was willing to serve as a father figure. I wouldnât change it for the world. I still have those guys around me to this day. In fact, I spoke to all four of them just this morning, as well as to my coach. I feel fortunate and blessed to still have that kind of access, because you donât see that very often in life.
KW: You have such deep roots in Ohio. Will you really seriously consider playing anywhere else when your contract expires?
LJ: I love my hometown of Akron, and I love the fans of Cleveland. Theyâve given me everything, so Iâm just looking forward to this season which is going to be great.
KW: Well, thanks again LeBron, and best of luck this season.
LJ: Thank you.
Interview with Kam Williams