Everything about the film speaks to an environment that breeds corruption, interviewing an anonymous shoe-company executive about how the NCAA’s arcane guidelines — and the restrictions imposed on players — invite corner-cutting and cheating.
There’s no escaping the messenger here, which reinforces the message. James would have reaped rewards whether he attended college or not, but “Student Athlete” makes clear that his generation of players essentially dodged the farcical aspects of what’s come to be known as the “one and done” rule, which was devised to prevent basketball players from entering the pros straight out of high school.
James has become much more than an athlete, and his recent signing to play for the Los Angeles Lakers positions him for even more interaction with Hollywood. Since that deal he and his producing partner Maverick Carter have sold a flurry of new TV programs, augmenting an existing slate that includes the current docu-series “Warriors of Liberty City.”
James has also signed to star in a new version of the movie “Space Jam,” which featured Michael Jordan in 1996. While that reflects his first starring role, he’s already branched out on screen, appearing in the comedy “Trainwreck” and providing one of the voices in the new animated movie “Smallfoot.”
James has, by any measure, become a media and cultural force, one whose influence extends well beyond the basketball court. By lending his producing muscle and name to “Student Athlete,” he looks to be demonstrating that he hasn’t forgotten those harboring the same dreams — hoop, gridiron or otherwise — who are destined to be considerably less fortunate.
“Student Athlete” premieres Oct. 2 at 10 p.m. on HBO. Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.