LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players and greatest athletes of all time. But as long as he has had the professional spotlight he has been more about his team and community’s success than any of his individual accomplishments. Many have wondered what makes him such a team first star.
(from left), Willie McGee (Avery S. Wills, Jr.), LeBron James (Marquis “Mookie” Cook), Lil Dru Joyce III (Caleb McLaughlin), Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage) and Romeo Travis (Sterling “Scoot” Henderson), in Shooting Stars, directed by Chris Robinson.
Well it started with his first team as a young kid turned high school phenomenon from Akron, Ohio. Shooting Stars is a new film on NBCUniversal’s peacock platform that tells the story of LeBron James’ first team and formation into the superstar we know today. UrbanFaith sat down with the director of Shooting Stars, Chris Robinson to talk about what it was like to tell the story of the young LeBron James and his teammates. The full interview is above, more on the film is below.
The film is rated PG-13 for strong language suggestive and alcohol references . The film does not necessarily reflect the views of UrbanFaith. Viewer discretion is advised.
It’s not how you start the game. It’s how you finish.
Based on the book by LeBron James and the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, Shooting Stars is the inspiring origin story of a basketball superhero, revealing how LeBron James and his childhood friends become the #1 high school team in the country, launching James’s breathtaking career as a four-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
Starring: Marquis “Mookie” Cook, Wood Harris, Caleb McLaughlin, Khalil Everage, Avery S. Willis, Jr., Sterling “Scoot” Henderson, Dermot Mulroney, Natalie Paul, Diane Howard, Algee Smith, Katlyn Nichol Director: Chris Robinson Executive Producer: Gretel Twombly Producers: Rachel Winter, p.g.a., Spencer Beighley p.g.a, LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson, Terence Winter Screenplay by: Frank E. Flowers and Tony Rettenmaier & Juel Taylor, based on the book by LeBron James & Buzz Bissinger
One of the things I thought Creed III did so well was to give space and allow for complexity in emotion and aspiration for black people, but especially for black men. Why was it important for you guys to show joy, loss, sorrow, pride, and you were able to capture so much of that. Why was that important?
Michael B. Jordan
I think because the narrative has often been one note for a long time. Through cinema on a project like this that’s going to get so many eyes, so many different points of view, to show those layers and complexities that is us. That is black men, men in general, but specifically our stories. We wanted to give it the respect and the honesty because we all know a Damian, we all know an Adonis, at some point at some level. And being able to represent those stories in a truthful way was really important to see.
Another thing that stuck out to me as well was that you have all these different relationships, you have mentor mentee, friendships, black marriage, fatherhood, being a child with an aging parent, and of course rivalry, all of that is so much a part of our story. What was it like to inhabit all those different roles?
Felt freeing. Honestly, for me, as a filmmaker, now a real storyteller, in a real way, being able to talk about and show the things that I’ve experienced that affect me in my life. Other people [and myself] have those type of relationships. Also, I think it felt it felt great to do work, I felt completely honest, real, and grounded. We do projects, different movies for different reasons. And all of it may not feel personal, [but] you try to bring a little bit of yourself to these roles. Feels good. It felt good.
I think my mission was a lot different. It’s really a commentary on brotherhood. What [does brotherhood] look like to you? At one point, [Creed] is my best friend, my homeboy, my ally. One point he’s my nemesis. One point, he’s my motivation. The man to that one relationship. We’re gonna continue the relationship between them and beyond as the primary attachment. My mission and my objective was to show the complexity of that relationship. In this one partnership, there’s all these different facets. It’s not just best friend. Sometimes a student- teacher, sometimes it’s beggar-rich man, sometimes it’s prisoner and freemen. There is a slave [and] master within the brotherhood. [Damien] was a coyote, [Creed] was purebred puppy. We were both dogs. Both men were both gladiators were both fighters, but there are these differences. It was difficult to establish those relationships.
I think that you guys left so much room, just to see a movie like this with a majority black cast. Black director, I think you’re carrying on legacy of Oscar Micheaux, Spike Lee, of these black directors, right. And you carrying on for these black actors, the Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Phylicia Rashad was in this movie. I mean, it’s incredible. What is it like for you all to be carrying on the legacy of black art and black film from actors’ and directors’ perspective now?
Michael B. Jordan
It feels good. It feels like we’re honoring their path and the race that they’ve been running. It’s our responsibility as filmmakers in the platform that we have and opportunities that we’re given because of their hard work to continue that work, that study, those ideas. Without Sydney, Denzel, and Harry Belafonte and in all the work that they’ve been doing, and have done, we couldn’t have been given this opportunity to run the way we are. We’re just trying to get every drop of juice out of the lemon, say as much as we can, be truthful and honest. And working with Phylicia, is fantastic. Amazing. Yes, ma’am. Anything you want ma’am. (laughs) Just honoring that it’s surreal sometimes, honestly, for me, it kind of it feels larger than life. You know, I have not really been a guy to stop and like smell flowers often. I’m like, what’s next? But when I hear somebody say that and break it down that way, it just kind of hits me like, wow, okay!
For me, it’s all the aforementioned artists Mike named but also Ella Fitzgerald, and Muhammad Ali, and Sam Cooke [whose legacies] we accepted. I know Mike is about to get on that Walk of Fame.
What we are talking about, it means something because he is going to transcend whatever an actor is, and transcend whatever are director is, you’re a part of popular culture. And that may be a bad word, but popular culture is the culture. When you begin to move at that level, you begin to do what Mike has done and is doing, you join the pantheon of these legends. Not only do we feel motivated to continue it, but to grow it. I mean, respectfully, we know things that Denzel, Sydney, and Harry were learning, we grew up knowing those things. It is our job to push it forward. You know, I think what is happening now is there’s a clear establishment of the new Vanguard. And that’s us. Whether or not we want it, it’s us, and [we have a responsibility.] We have athletes joined us in the fray, but it’s about moving the entire culture forward. You know a huge part of pop culture is black culture. The more we mature, the more sophisticated we become, the more intelligent conversations, the more in-depth conversations become, the more complex they becomes, the more we are adding to our culture and the richness of our culture, but also moving everything forward.
Just pulling back a little bit. You all have both just succeeded so much are two of the greatest black actors in this moment, some of the greatest actors of our generation, if I may say so. And I know that a huge part of that has been growth, and my audience is interested in faith. I know that’s been huge, especially in Jonathan’s journey. Can you talk a little bit about what faith has meant to you all as artists, and even as you continue to climb these ladders and open new pathways?
Michael B. Jordan
Faith, you know, for me is strong. I think we’re in an industry where, you got to have a lot [of faith]. You’re one of many, [who will face] a lot of no’s, a lot of rejection, a lot of obstacles that are in your way, in order for you to see a vision of what success looks like to you. You got to have faith in yourself, you have faith in something bigger than you. I think meditation, spirituality, for me, silence [are impactful]. And then that brings those thoughts that are [helpful] that comes to you. I think it’s extremely important. And also faith in evolving things. I think there’s a way in this industry… a lot of roadblocks that can get in your way and that represent life. As you travel life has a lot of different roadblocks that would come in your way and being the main character of your own movie, as being the hero of your own story, got to have that faith in order to kind of achieve it, reach the mountaintop, so to speak. So that’s something that sticks with me. We have strong faith.
To me [faith] means everything. I know it’s a scary word [in some circles] but I pray all the time. You know this tiny, small little voice, that’s [what has] always guided me. And the building of faith, you know, stepping out on faith. I mean, this whole thing set me off. I hadn’t read the script. This idea of discernment. Michael, and I spoke about that [discernment], that’s what was happening in those 30 minutes [when I was offered the role of Damien]. There’s a Hollywood version where I go, “oh, nice” and I just knew. But I was told. [Or I wouldn’t have done it]. I’ve met Michael’s mother, you know. These are praying, folks. We’ve all been prayed [over] our entire lives and the building of the faith, even having this conversation with you right now. Being asked about [faith], it’s probably a good time, as we both are both tired. I’m not gonna preach. But I have no doubt where my strength comes from.
I appreciate that. Last question for you all. Our audience is young people, young adults, I work with high school actors. What advice would you give to those young folks, young artists who are trying to be successful trying to find their voice. What advice would you give to the next generation?
Michael B. Jordan
Be relentless. I always say be relentless. Find something you care about, that you obsess over, and just go for it. There’s going to be a lot of noise, a lot of resistance. But try not to be distracted by a lot of distractions. [They’re] all around you in a lot of different forms, by way of that little box right there [your phone]. We’re all guilty in a certain way, shape or form sometimes. But I think for young people who grew up with that as the norm [it’s even worse]. I grew up with dial up modems, printing out directions on mapquest lol. That’s, that’s my generation. But a lot of these kids, [smart phones] that’s their truth, that’s their norm. There’s a lot of distraction nowadays. So just being able to put that thing down for a minute and be to your own thoughts, you know what I’m saying, focus, and have the work ethic and not think everything’s so instant and immediate.
Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors at Boys & Girls Club of Atlanta for Creed III Atlanta Outreach
Because a lot of things they feel like, it’s right now, right now, and it’s not, you know what I’m saying? These are products of years of work, dedication and discipline. And I think, I would always preach it to the next generation, to these young kids, to just find that work ethic, because there’s something true to it. There’s something that nobody can take away from hard work. You put the time in and you can’t they can’t take that away from you. Whether that’s reading, whether it’s mastering the craft, doing your 10,000 hours. That is legit.
Micahel B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors spend time with students at Urban Prep for Creed III Chicago Outreach
I’m in it now. I would pray for purpose. I would pray for anointing. And once you know what your anointing is, that’s it. A lot of times, we’re just going after the wrong thing. The work ethic, a lot of people think me and Mike just have a dog work ethic. That’s not, not true. But I think something that me and Mike also have in common is that we know what we’re supposed to be doing. We gain a great deal of pleasure from it. It’s our anointing. You hear Michael B. Jordan, it’s not just Michael B. Jordan, something was put in him. Something was put in me, so I have to be aligned with that. When we begin to walk our path, there’s still no’s, there’s still impossibilities… but there’s God. So it’s all good. It’s all good. That’s what I was saying. Then yeah, all the grit and all that…yeah, absolutely. But a lot of times you’re actually just going after the wrong thing. I will say to the young folks, you don’t need your phone yet. Grown ups need phones. We actually have businesses. I don’t use [social media and] stuff like that. But I do understand my colleagues who do. They’re like, in the game, in the matrix, there’s no getting out of it. But for young people, you can keep it so simple. And it can always be simple, unless you complicate it. Suddenly you begin to work through that thing. Then you got to work for it. If you can, if you can abstain for as long as you can. It’ll let you know when you need it. Insta-chat-facebook-tweet. Pay attention a little longer. They won’t last. [Social media we grew up on didn’t last].
It is not often that I go to the movie theater and feel like a movie left my speechless but that is exactly how I felt about Devotion. It is based on a true story and has been the culmination of decades of work by the family and friends of Jesse Brown, a true American hero. There was a national conversation a few years ago about the “Hidden Figures” of American history. As African Americans unfortunately much of our history has gone untold, and some of it has been erased by racism, fear, and cultural amnesia. The story of Jesse Brown, one of the first black Naval Aviators to serve in an integrated unit, is a piece of history that must be remembered. It is an honor to Jesse’s daughter and grandchildren who are still alive that their grandfather’s story can finally be told. We are rooting for everybody black, and as we learn his story we help to remember more of our own history.
Jesse served during the Korean War, a war that is not often highlighted on the big screen. It is called America’s forgotten war because it was not the heroic story of good triumphing over evil from World War II and it is overshadowed by Vietnam during the Cold War in its tragedy and impact on American consciousness. But it was the first war where young Americans who were inspired by WWII joined the ranks of the military in order to fight for their country and were not drafted. Jesse Brown was like many African Americans in his era in that he was motivated not simply by patriotism, but an opportunity to help his family advance in a rapidly changing society. He saw himself not as an incredible black man, but as an incredible man. His wife and daughter were the center of his world and his purpose was to fly with the best pilots in the nation.
As we watch the impeccable talent of Jonathan Majors bring Jesse Brown to life we cannot help but to see his devotion. He was a man of faith, a man of family, and a man of fortitude. He demanded respect but rarely opened himself to trust people outside of his home. A lifetime of facing overt and structural racism had taught him to test before he trusted. A new and accomplished member of his unit Tom Hudner played by Glen Powell attempts to build a friendship across the cultural divide.
There is a special bond between team members that go through battles together, and it builds a devotion to one another and to the cause they fight for. This movie explores the depths of that passion in a profound way. But the reason why you should really see this movie is because the story of Jesse Brown needs to be told. We hear about how African Americans have to work twice as had to get half as far, Jesse Brown lived it in our military. We remember stories of American heroism trying to serve our country and protect their fellow soldiers. We rarely hear about black men in those positions. There have been countless successful war movies. This one is for our community with all of the nuance and authenticity that is true to our struggle to be part of the military let alone thrive in it. How can we honor the people in uniform for a country that has long neglected the rights and humanity of black people? Hundreds of our ancestors wore those uniforms and the story of the American struggle for freedom has been the story of the African American struggle for freedom since America’s first war. All Americans need to hear that story and be reminded of the struggle and the triumphs. We need to tell Jesse Brown’s story the same way we tell the stories of Pearl Harbor, Letters from Iwo Jima, Dunkirk, and all of the other films that share tragedies and triumphs of our veterans.
I left the theater in tears. I was moved. I could not believe I had never heard about Jesse Brown’s story, and had rarely heard about the Korean War in all of the history classes I had taken. I feel myself particularly acquainted with African American history having attended the illustrious Howard University and taken several African American history courses. I could not shake the sadness, frustration, and inspiration I felt because I had never heard the name Jesse Brown as one of the “First Black” in the long list of first blacks. We have to know and share our history. We have to share our devotion to our heritage. You have to see this movie, so that this piece of history, our history, is never forgotten again.
Bishop Marvin Sapp is a pastor, musician, author, artist and now filmmaker. He’s working on learning how to cook. He has over a dozen Grammy nominations, Stellar Awards, BET Awards and more as a Gospel Artist. He is the co-founder and pastor of two churches in Grand Rapids, MI and Fort Worth, TX. He is the Bishop serving over 100 congregations. He is a gifted preacher, speaker and leader. He most recently released a film with TVOne telling his testimony and was an executive producer and star of the film. To put it lightly, Marvin Sapp is a busy man of God. But it is his love for people, his incredible testimonies, and his heartfelt authenticity that have helped him be a vessel for the Holy Spirit for decades. UrbanFaith sat down with this legendary Gospel artist and minister and talked about everything from film to football and ministry to mental health. The full interview is above, more about Bishop Sapp is below.
Bishop Marvin L. Sapp is a passionate orator and biblical teacher, who desires to be a living epistle glorifying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ both in word and in deed who is the Co-Founder of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Senior Pastor of The Chosen Vessel Cathedral in Fort Worth, Texas as well as a Metropolitan Bishop that oversees more than 100 churches in the Central Deanery of Global United Fellowship.
Bishop Sapp is a multiplatinum selling artist who has enjoyed a decorated music career receiving 13 Grammy nominations, 24 Stellar Awards, 2 Soul Train Music Awards, 2 BET Awards, 4 Dove Awards, 8 BMI songwriter’s awards for sales, Black Music Honors Gospel Music Icon Award along with many other accolades and honors from national, regional, and local institutions.
Dr. Tony Evans is one of the most influential pastors and theologians in the United States and his daughter Priscilla Shirer is one of the most well-known authors and speakers. UrbanFaith sat down with them to discuss their documentary Journey with Jesus and their book Divine Disruption written as a family holding onto faith in the midst of grief.