WASHINGTON – It all began in a Salvation Army gym on Maple St.
Four elementary students from the small town of Akron, Ohio, came together to play basketball on the linoleum floor and since then, they've been inseparable.
The "Fab 4," they called themselves, including current NBA player LeBron James, found an instant connection with each other on the court and off.
Their unique friendship helped them to win nearly all their Amateur Athletic Union tournaments and later, national championship games during their high school years.
Their story is captured in the documentary "More Than a Game." Basketball fans – mainly LeBron James fans – and moviegoers at the screening in Washington this week were surprised to find a film less about sports and more about friendship and loyalty.
"This is a friendship story," director Kristopher Belman said Thursday.
But perhaps what's overlooked is the faith element.
A principal character in the film is Coach Dru Joyce II, who led the Fab 4 – and later the Fab 5 – through most of their basketball journey.
A former football player, Joyce put on the coach hat for his son, Dru Joyce III, whose dream was to be a professional basketball player.
He was asked by a board member of the local Salvation Army to coach a traveling team, which included the Fab 4. And from that point on, he guided the talented students well into their teen and young adult years.
His job, however, wasn't just about basketball, he said in the film. It was about building character and helping them become men. That was what God sent him there to do, the coach said. During practices, he emphasized and instilled in them the biblical values of humility, unity and sacrifice.
Joyce's Christian faith wasn't highlighted in the film, but scenes of prayers and church attendance revealed that he relied on God to help him lead the boys both in basketball and in life.
He told The Christian Post after the Washington screening that faith plays a role in everything he does.
"You can't separate your faith from anything you do," he said without hesitation.
Joyce and the Fab 5 are currently promoting "More Than a Game" on an international tour, which kicked off in Chicago. The film hits select theaters on Oct. 2.