Once upon a time, on a modest linoleum court, in a slightly rundown Salvation Army, four kids got together to shoot some hoops. One of them grew up to be LeBron James.

But Kristopher Belman’s new documentary More Than a Game isn’t a fairytale about the basketball star some say is the next Michael Jordan. It’s the story of unbreakable bonds built as young boys becoming men on a world stage thanks to the talents of their brethren and the incredible gameplay their chemistry created.

In Akron, Ohio, everyone knew about the “Fab Five,” a group of players and friends so enmeshed in one another, they were family. There’s Sian Cotton, the enormous teddy bear, Willie McGee, the product of a troubled, broken home who was sent from his home in Chicago to live with his brother in Akron, Dru Joyce III, the dominating point guard who started his basketball career despite standing “4’10” ... on a good day,” Romeo Travis, the angry one and James, a kid looking for role models and father figures after being raised by a loving but struggling teenage mother.

More Than a Game covers nine years in the lives of these incredible young players and their coach, Dru Joyce II. Belman took archival footage, photographs, local news coverage and interviews and created dynamic, kinetic graphic images that morph and move, immersing you in the still imagery as he weaves a story of childhood unions that were forged so intensely when Joyce III decided he would only attend the private, mostly white St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in order to insure court time and his three best friends followed him without question or hesitation.

Watching a film about the early years of a luminary as radiant and talented as James is obviously involving and compelling, but the film’s real merit rests in Belman’s ability to make each of the young players and their thoughtful, gentile, passionate coach a star as well. Utilizing a fantastic soundtrack that pulsates and pumps with the litheness of the young athletes sinking consecutive threes, Belman builds to numerous crescendos, making each nail-biting and heart-stopping. We all know the sports movie formulas at play, but that doesn’t make a clutch win or a heartbreaking loss any less exhilarating or touching.

More Than a Game is Belman’s first feature, one he made over five years with maxed out credit cards, but, much like watching a young LeBron James, even his freshman effort is elating, vivacious and hints of tremendous potential.

Grade: B

More Than a Game releases in select theaters Oct. 2.