His group of childhood friends

(Everett Collection, Getty Images)

“Shooting Stars” depicts LeBron James’ real-life teenage years. (Photo: Everett Collection, Getty Images)

At this point in pop culture, apparently every superhero gets a cinematic origin story. Next appointment: LeBron James.

The new movie Shooting Stars follows the rise of the Akron, Ohio native hailed as ‘the next Michael Jordan’ as a high school underclassman before eventually fulfilling that prophecy and, like fellow No. 23, becoming one of the greatest NBA players of all time.

In the film, James (Marquis “Mookie” Cook) co-stars with his coterie of friends and castmates (Caleb McLaughlin’s Dru Joyce III, Avery Wills’ Willie McGee, Khalil Everage’s Sian Cotton and Scoot Henderson’s Romeo Travis ) who won three Ohio State Championships in four years for Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish.

“That’s actually what drew me to the script,” says Chris Robinson, the prolific music video and commercial director who counts Shooting Stars as his third feature film after ATL (2006) and Beats (2019). “It wasn’t just about a basketball player turned pro. It was about all the other things that we can all relate to.

“There were a lot of brotherhood themes and when I broke it down, it’s also a father-son story. Even though LeBron’s dad wasn’t there, his coach [Wood Harris’s Dru Joyce II] kinda filled that space to teach him things and let him know what it would take just to be a better human being. And I think that has everything to do with him being who he is.

SHOOTING STARS, from left: Avery Serell Wills Jr., Marquis Mookie Cook, as LeBron James, Caleb McLaughlin, Khalil Everage, Sterling Henderson, 2023. ph: Oluwaseye Olusa / ©  Peacock / Courtesy Everett Collection

The Cast of “Shooting Stars” (L-R): Avery Serell Wills Jr., Marquis Mookie Cook as LeBron James, Caleb McLaughlin, Khalil Everage, Sterling Henderson (Photo: Oluwaseye Olusa/Peacock/Courtesy Everett Collection )

Dru Joyce II assembled the core group for their Shooting Stars college recreation team. And when Dru Joyce III was going to be placed on the junior varsity team at Buchtel, the Akron public high school the boys planned to attend, James and his teammates called a controversial audible, conspiring to play Catholic school together at predominantly white St. Vincent-St. Mary instead.

Beyond LeBron’s uncanny basketball gifts, he owes a huge debt to his group of friends, with whom he shared the most formative moments. “Even though your work happens to be the most amazing basketball player in basketball history, [when you have] this group of friends, all of that doesn’t matter,” Robinson says. “It’s just joy when you’re connected. And I think that’s his superpower. You know, his basketball IQ is off the charts. But I think his superpower is that this group of friends, this community, this village, they’re always connected.

SHOOTING STARS, from left: Sian Cotton, Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Coach Dru Joyce II, LeBron James, 2023. ©  Peacock / Courtesy Everett Collection

Left to right: Sian Cotton, Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Coach Dru Joyce II, LeBron James (Photo: Peacock/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Cook and McLaughlin agree.

“I think without them he wouldn’t be where he is today,” says Cook, a rookie actor. “These are the people who are going to keep it balanced and also let it be him, you know what I mean? They accepted it for him, and they all grew [together]. They all found their own path which they all loved. They all had different aspirations. And you see they all support each other regardless of what they do. Sadly, not all of them made it to the NBA, but they all still have some type of connection. … They are all sincerely [love] each other.”

“You don’t see that at all these days,” says McLaughlin, who is best known for being part of another group of close friends on the hit Netflix series. stranger things. “People have groups of friends, but that changes over the years. But they’ve been friends forever and they’re still best friends to this day. And that says a lot about these men. Especially with the pressure they had. They weren’t just regular friends. LeBron is the greatest basketball player of all time. A lot of people might get jealous, envious. But these guys knew who they were. They all had their own type of confidence. They had their own story.

“People would expect this movie to be LeBron’s story, LeBron’s legacy. But it shines a light on his friends. So it’s more than basketball. It’s more than a game It’s about friendship, fun, community (McLaughlin probably chose those words carefully: a popular 2008 documentary titled More than a game also described the history of LeBron’s relationship with his childhood friends.)

SHOOTING STARS, Marquis Mookie Cook, as LeBron James, 2023. ph: Oluwaseye Olusa /©  Peacock / Courtesy Everett Collection

Marquis Mookie Cook as LeBron James in ‘Shooting Stars’ (Photo: Oluwaseye Olusa/Peacock/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Robinson and company conducted an extensive search to find their on-screen LeBron, ultimately choosing Hollywood rookie Cook for his basketball skills and potential ability to become an actor.

“We just searched and searched, at basketball tournaments on the East Coast,” Robinson says. “And we found it. Mookie auditioned in a locker room after practice, having never auditioned before. And, you know, he screwed up and some of the words were wrong, but he just embodied that energy. He doesn’t look exactly like LeBron, but he has the characteristics of someone with a lot of integrity, and that’s what he was.”

“I think I was cast because they didn’t want an actor to play LeBron, [faking] basketball, they wanted the basketball to be as authentic as possible. And I guess I’m kind of good at acting, so I was chosen for that. But basketball was out of the question.

Shooting Stars is now streaming on Peacock.

Watch the trailer:

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