27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2009
There are several books out there about LeBron James, but I find the best way to get a grasp on someone is to hear what they have to say. Shooting Stars is the book you want if you're looking to see what the NBA phenom experienced firsthand, and it's his first book as an author (Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, is on board as well). Admittedly I've grown tired of seeing LeBron's name and face everywhere (it's hard to avoid incessant marketing), but as a basketball fan I respect him as a professional. With that said, let me tell you this is an easy, breezy read. He describes his childhood, his school days, and his basketball life before reaching the NBA. There isn't any fluff - just what happened and how he got through high school. I blew through this book and you will too, especially with any basketball interest.
LeBron James didn't have a spectacular childhood. He and his mother Gloria moved around and didn't have much money. They lived in the projects until he graduated high school. But in junior high he became very tight with three friends, and little did he know this would propel him to legendary status. They dubbed themselves The Fab Four playing basketball together for years, collectively deciding to enroll at St. Vincent-St. Mary High despite their racial minority there. After their freshman year they accepted a transfer student as one of their own and soon enough became The Fab Five.
Amazingly, yet not completely surprising, St. V won back-to-back Ohio state championships the first two years with LeBron and company. Two years later they won another state championship, and were national champs to boot. The way LeBron describes his lifestyle and the games is humbling and he speaks more about his teammates than himself even. He isn't arrogant about how good he was and the game notes seemed rather restrained - he truly was a beast on the court if you've never seen high school footage. He was a man among boys running opponents out of the gym, but in the book credits more to his team than his own successes.
LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated his junior year and publicity was soaring. But with all the hype and hoopla came troubles. He and his teammates admitted to smoking marijuana, Gloria battled with loan dilemmas after buying her son a Hummer, and LeBron was even suspended for accepting gifts. Even though it was a celebrity life, he dealt with everything as best as a teenager could.
Shooting Stars depicts the rise of one of the best ever and I feel I understand LeBron James better knowing where he comes from.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2009
I am a huge Cavs fan and love LeBron. I attended his high school games at St. V's, so I knew about the players and coaches. The book is an easy read but doesn't really capture the reader. The stories become very repetitive with too much detail focused on the games they played. Some games were completely documented, such as "I hit a 3, St V up 15-10. Dru hits a shot, St V up 17-10." If you are a fan of LeBron then you almost feel obligated to read the book. However I wouldn't recommend the book to non fans. Hopefully the movie is better.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The temptation is irresistible. Buzz Bissinger, justly granted lifetime VIP access to the high-brow sports writing club (along with Halberstam, Feinstein, Asinof, Kahn, Plimpton, Remnick, and Lewis), returns to the trope he exploited so well in Friday Night Lights: lifetime bonds forged in high school athletic glory. Like FNL, Shooting Stars is about the purity and camaraderie of amateur sports at a time when -- in spite of the swirling promise of money, popularity, glory -- athletes are still in it for all the right reasons when they step between the lines.
Sadly, while Bissinger turned a telescope on small Permian High's football glories in his seminal HS football tome, here, he instead is amplifying a trite, pre-packaged PR schpiel for one of the planet's most famous -- and most managed -- pro athletes.
FNL was all heart. It was authentic, it was a great story and whatever resonance it had came about organically in both the story itself and in Bissinger's obvious enthusiasm to tell it for its own sake. With THREE NIGHTS IN AUGUST, Bissinger's painfully pre-packaged baseball biography of Tony LaRussa told through the device of a three-game series, the author began a descent from artistry informed by marketability to an inversion. SHOOTING STARS completes the fall -- this book is a press release.
Without a doubt, James' story is compelling in many ways. His high school fame is a well-known but still fertile field, and here his people tried to draw some attention to a less-widely known angle of the story: the four friends who followed (and - surprisingly - often drove James) through those high school years. But, Bissinger's treatment is shameless. One can almost see the outline he worked from as plot points are laid out and linked too overtly to thematic goals (i.e., freshman year title game, the small and overlooked member of the quintet comes through in a big way: be sure to emphasize LeBron's willingness to step back and his real joy at seeing his friend win the glory).
It is telling that Bissinger was remarkably unseen on the book's PR launch this week. On NPR, rather than have Bissinger and James discuss the book together, LeBron carried the water himself. In a lot of ways, I can see the value of that approach, but with James deploying malapropisms like "calm and collective," the interview can't have done much to sell the book to even the most curious NPRer. They could have used Bissinger to close the deal. My sense though is that -- much like the book -- his heart might not have been in it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2010
In "Shooting Stars", by Buzz Bissinger & Lebron James, the main characters are LeBron James,Little Dru Joyce,Coach Dru(father of Little Dru),Sian Cotton,Willie McGee,and Romeo Travis. LeBron,Little Dru,Sian, and Willie pretty much grew up together, playing basketball together in the AAU tournament being coached by Coach Dru,hence his nickname, who would also later on become their St. Vincents head coach in their junior and senior seasons.The conflict in "Shooting Stars" is one of Man Vs. Man, the Fab Four fighting those who persecuted the Fab Four for not attending and playing basketball for Butchel High School, but instead attending a "white" school, St Vincent's-St Mary's. Another conflict in the story consisted of the St Vincent's team and the teams they played throughout the high school tournaments. Also, a third conflict was one of Man vs. Surroundings, LeBron James growing up in poverty and having to move constantly, Willie having to uproot from Chicago to Illinois, and Romeo transferring from the high school he played at as a freshman to a St. Vincent's school where he had trouble making friends, but eventually befriending the Fab Four.
The hard work and determenation in practices and in AAU basketball led up to the rising action. One event was when the then Fab Four played the AAU National Championship and lost, making them tougher and stronger. Also, Romeo Travis joining the team led up to their number one ranking in the country, as close as a national championship win they would get since there is no high school national championship. Third, the defeat of Mater Dei, a private catholic school powerhouse, certainly led up to their number one ranking. What did I like about this novel? Virtually everything. This book was not only about LeBron James, which most would come to expect, it highlighted the whole Fab Five. For Example, there was a whole chapter on Willie McGee and a whole chapter on Romeo Travis alone. Also, after reading this book you feel like you know the Fab Five personally. The book tells every small detail about their run to number one. Last, this books starts with background information on the players' personal lives, not just their life on the court.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2009
SHOOTING STARS is the story of LeBron James and his four boyhood friends in Aaron growing in friendship and basketball on their way to three Ohio championships and one national championship. The title is taken from the junior AAU team that first brought them to the attention of the basketball world. What is admirable about the book is the steadfastness of the players and their determination to win. Also, LeBron's elevation of his friends and coaches to major parts in the narrative speaks well of his lasting affection for them.
What is lacking in the book in what was undoubtedly apparent on the court--chemistry. Buzz Bissinger is a great writer. I love his books. But, Bissinger also has an unique writing style, and trying to merge Lebron's oral style into Bissinger's prose is a failure. You can literally picture Bissinger having the manuscript in front of him inserting descriptions and using vocabulary that seems misplaced. As a reader when you are constantly reminded of the dual authorship by the juxaposition of styles, you know the editor should have stepped in and said "this isn't working."
Still, LeBron's bond with his home city, family, and friends survives in this well-intended, but not quite perfectly executed look back.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"We all we got." That epigram --- from the front of this book --- tells you all you need to know about LeBron James' memoir. He may be the world's best basketball player. Entire chapters may be devoted to chronicles of games. But this is not a book about basketball.
Shooting Stars is a book about race, about being born black and poor and fighting your way around drugs and gangs and despair to become a decent human being. It's about character.
Those are big subjects, bigger and more urgent every day. Ever since an African-American moved into the White House, the idea that a black man can be worthy has come under withering attack. And don't think for a minute that the Limbaughs, Becks and Hannitys are interested only in de-legitimizing Barack Obama. They want "their" country back --- and when you shake the rhetoric away from the message, you can pretty easily see that they want the black man to "know his place."
But here's the catch. LeBron James --- who is now, at 24, the world's third-highest paid athlete --- had no place. Born in Akron, Ohio to a 16-year-old, he never knew his father. He moved a dozen times before he was 8. When he was 9, he missed 100 days of school, and his mother placed him in another home until she could get her life together. At 11, he had never been to Cleveland, just 39 miles away.
What saved LeBron James from the streets?
The friends he made when they were 10 and 11: Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton. They called themselves "The Fab Four" and they celebrated their brotherhood in their neighborhood, at school, and, most of all, on basketball courts.
"We all we got." I'm not ashamed to say I cried when I read those words for the first time, and I mist up even now --- those words, and what's behind them, are the difference between life and death, success and failure. No one gets anywhere in life alone; everyone needs support. A family, a religious group, a circle of friends. Especially if you're poor and marginalized.
As a group portrait, "Shooting Stars" is the story of some teenagers who worked at basketball until they were just about the best team in the country. It's about the many games they won, and how they did it, and the few they lost, and why. And it's about a boy of immense talent and deep wounds, who became, at 18, so remarkably good that he skipped college and went right to the NBA.
Ultimately, though, it's about a young bodhisattva --- a boy with a vision, and great teachers, and greater friends. It's about the struggle to fit in at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, where the kids were white and there was a dress code, and zero tolerance for facial hair, tats or bling. It's about being hated for being good, and burrowing deeper into your brotherhood.
And it's about teams. The truth of basketball, as Michael Jordan had to learn, is that scoring champions don't win championships. Teams do. And that is true of so much more than basketball. "We all we got."
So you'll read the story of the $50,000 Hummer that LeBron received on his 18th birthday, the late-night parties in hotels before tournament games, the inability to handle what happens when you're on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior --- and, yes, you will think he's blown it forever. And then, because LeBron James and his friends really are exceptionally good students in the subjects that matter, you'll get redemption that's far more exciting than any three-pointer at the buzzer.
Who should read this book? Everyone who loves basketball, of course. But more: kids on the fence, mothers of teenage sons, teachers and preachers. And --- how could I forget? --- a few million aging whites who categorically demonize young black males as thugs but who don't have a fraction of the character of LeBron James and his friends.
"We all we got." Those kids believed. And they knew: what they achieved on their court was nothing compared to what they achieved in their lives. They made it out.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2009
I enjoyed this effort by James and Bussinger, but make no mistake: this is a book written for high school students, not fans of serious sports journalism. "SS" does include some interesting tidbits about the best basketball player in the world and he seems to be a bit more centered and insightful than most other superstars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2014
If you have a relative connected with St. Vincent/St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, particularly from the relatively recent past, they are sure to love "Shooting Stars."
As for everyone else, well, don't bother.
More words are needed to describe the book, naturally, but that sums up the situation pretty quickly.
This is essentially the story of superstar LeBron James and his basketball experiences leading up through the end of high school. James banded together with three others around age 11 and went on to play for an AAU team. The group added a fifth member upon reaching high school, and the Fab Five won three state championships in four years. As seniors, the high school team captured the mythical national championship as awarded by USA Today, even though it certainly seems real to James.
The level of success by any standard is impressive. Most of the players came from lower-class backgrounds and had to be learn how to show responsibility to the team and to each other in order for all of them to succeed collectively. James certainly led the way in that sense. He's always been a team player even though he's clearly several notches above his teammates in talent, preferring to share the wealth (i.e. the ball) when possible.
There's not much else to this story in that sense. James wasn't going to go to college, so there are no stories about recruiting possibilities. He does talk about the controversies he went through (a new expensive car, some free merchandise) that became issues during his senior year. But mostly, James sticks to his teams and the sport.
It's written by Bissinger, who has some superb work to his credit. His "Friday Night Lights" is one of the great books about sports and society in history. Less known but just as fascinating is "A Prayer for the City," a book about trying to run the city of Philadelphia. Bissinger also did a good book on St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. The publisher here is obviously is counting on Bissinger's name to sell some books; it's almost as big as James' on the cover. And Bissinger's touch is a bit obvious in such matters as switching to present tense to describe big games; it reads a bit unnaturally.
James and Bissinger touch on some interesting issues here, but only briefly. The biggest is that quite obviously everyone was making money on this group of high school kids, except the kids themselves. The games were played in big arenas, and the team often flew around the country to find worthy competition. Should high schools be in the entertainment business to that extent? James seemed to like playing good teams and players, but sometimes you can sometimes see he wished he could be a little more "normal" in high school.
The focal point of this book comes down to a basic question: Does the reader care this much about this group? That's a very tough sell. There is a great amount of play-by-play here about high school games from long ago, and a shot-by-shot description just isn't very interesting, particularly in hindsight.
This would work much better as a tribute to the team's championships shortly after their runs were completed. It's a little late for that now. "Shooting Stars" does offer some insight into James' beginnings and character, and there's some interest in the roots of a superstar. Otherwise, it's a superficial look at a subject of limited interest.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Obviously Lebron let Buzz Bissinger (professional author) do the writing - however Lebron's voice is not lost, it is very much an autobiography written in the first person of those years of Lebron's life, with side stories about those people surrounding him.
The book is well written, you get some insight on the life of a young Lebron, who admits some of his mistakes. The smoking weed part is so minor, I don't understand why it has picked up so much steam. Without giving away parts of the book, you just get to know about his 4 best friends, mentors, and more. Some of which he met when he was very young.
In the book he tries to explain the incidents with the Hummer as well as the free retro jerseys that got him suspended.
It's an entertaining read, certainly if you are a Lebron fan, or from Cleveland, you will enjoy the book. There are lots of references to Akron (his home town) among other nearby areas.
I am a basketball fan, who also participated in many basketball tournaments growing up, so I could identify with a lot of what was going on in the book. Despite this, and a well written book, insight into a tough childhood, among other things - I just don't feel any different about Lebron. I don't appreciate what he has done more, I don't feel any extra connection to him, nothing. When I read a good biography I usually gain more appreciation for the person, and it just didn't happen with this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I live in a pro basketbal town so thought I would enjoy this book but I read part of it only just couldn't finish. My thirty-something year old son saw it and took it home to read. This is his review:
I thought the book was ok at best, I am a basketball fan but not necessarily a Lebron fan. I think his young fan's (14-20 yrs old) would enjoy this book and use it to inspire their own sports goals. I had high hopes for this book when I first started reading about his and his friend's early years and the different backgrounds they came from. I also like his honesty about the love he has for the people that helped raise him when his mother struggled to do so herself, especially Coach Dru. At times it became a little far fetched with his take on the dreams of middle school basketball players inspiring to be the best. I thought Lebron was overstating his and his friends maturity at a young age while at the same time using youth as an excuse for mistakes or character flaws. The book went quickly but with not much substance other than highlights of ball games and kids being kids. Towards the end of the book it became more about Lebron defending himself using some bad judgment and letting the reader know who the people were that were against him succeeding. Quick read but not inspirational like a sports story should be.