Engaged in pre-flight bookstore browse, I noticed a new book with a picture of basketball star LeBron James on the cover. I picked it up for two reasons. For one, I was interested to learn what the best player on the planet (sorry, Kobe) had to say. For another, I noticed that it was co-authored by Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, one of the best ever books on sports.
On one level, Shooting Stars is a hoops fairy tale come true. Five young boys from Akron start playing elementary school travel team basketball. Having had their eyes rudely forced open at a national tournament in Florida, they make a to-the-death pact to one day secure a national championship and put their down-on-its-luck hometown back on the map. (The glory that was “Rubber City” was way before their time.) One thing that separates these kids from the thousands of youthful quintets with the same dream is the simple fact that they went ahead and did it, becoming national high school champs about a decade after their solemn vow.
On another, deeper level, this is a story about friendship. While they correctly sense that a deep bond provides the only path to their dream, they don’t seem to realize that it also provides perhaps the only path to a desirable future. Meanwhile, they are surrounded by peers and family members who can find neither a path nor a future. It’s also a story about great teaching provided by a man (the father of one of the boys) who wasn’t sure he was up to the task. As with the Hyde Teaching Triangle, teacher and students pursued the subjects (basketball and life) together and arrived at an inspiring destination for all of them and us. And the journey continues.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld