Agents, film crews, groupies—it’s tough to juggle the responsibilities facing a pro athlete, especially when you’re in high school. “One time, a girl actually ran on the team bus and showed her breasts,” laughs Romeo Travis, who played high school hoops alongside NBA superstar LeBron James at St. Vincent-
St. Mary in Akron, OH. “We were like rock stars.”
As documented in the new film More Than a Game, in theaters this month, Travis survived those chaotic teenage years. The film follows Travis, James, and their team on the journey to a national high school championship under the glaring spotlight focused on James. The team handled the mounting pressure by forming a tight-knit group dubbed the Fab Five—a phrase each of the members has tattooed on his body.
“How else can you show your love than by getting a tattoo?” Travis asks. “I got one first and then everybody else was like, ‘Hey, we should all get one.’ Everybody put their own twist on it.”
Travis was tattooed for the first time when he was 16—around the same time he started living his life in front of a video camera. Each of Romeo’s 20 tattoos serves as an inspirational reminder, from the footprints on his arm to the portrait of his grandmother on his rib cage. “Every time I get down, I can just look at one of them,” says Travis. “They’re going to be relevant to me my entire life.”
Those inked reminders are important now that Travis spends so much time away from his family and friends playing pro ball in Germany. He’s had no trouble adapting to life on the court (“Basketball is basketball, no matter where you play it”), but outside the gym is a different story. After pricing out a small tattoo on his hand, Travis walked out of a German tattoo shop and vowed never again to stray from his regular hookup in Cleveland.
It’s not just about price, though. Travis takes too much pride in his tattoos to risk getting shoddy work. It’s a rule that he applies to others as well. “If you’ve got bad artwork, I don’t feel like I can respect you,” says Travis. “If you don’t respect yourself, then how can you expect me to respect you?”
It’s those strong values that helped Travis emerge unscathed from his unique teenage years in front of a national audience. “It made me grow up fast,” Travis remembers. “But it was for the betterment of all of us.”
Sure, but what about those groupies? Travis just laughs, “I plead the Fifth.”