Hoop Dreams (1994)

The social determinants of health are a group of factors which influence the health and well-being of populations. They include education, literacy, income, housing, food security, culture, and genetics among others. These elements collectively impact and determine health outcomes of a population, but can also be applied to an individual’s life trajectory. If there are certain determinants inadequately present in a person’s surrounding environment, the ability to live comfortably and/or to achieve daily or highly sought after goals becomes increasingly difficult. “Hoop Dreams” is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James highlighting the multiple elements shaping the courses of two promising basketball players’ futures.

Dem-3 Photo. Helene Jeanbrau © 1996 cine-tamaris.tif

William Gates and Arthur Agee are two fourteen-year-olds living in inner city Chicago in the late 1980s. Insurance agent Earl Smith acts as a basketball recruiter for the prestigious private St. Joseph’s High School, priding themselves on their eye for talent and crafting of basketball stars. Both teens begin attending this school, making a long trek daily to advance their education and sportsman skills. The viewers are bystanders to their challenging and sometimes arduous journey from freshmen to the end of high school. Both face incredible uphill battles, from financial to familial to physical struggles. We yearn and cheer for their success and achievements as do their families and friends, and we greatly empathize with them in their trials and tribulations. The community of team sports is quite evident in the film, and that spirit is tangible through the screen.

The concept of “dreams” is present throughout the documentary. The two teens at the film’s epicentre undoubtedly have aspirations to finish high school, go to college, and to ultimately play for the NBA. However, their triumphs and ambitions extend beyond their individual selves and infiltrate into many other systems. Family members may live vicariously through them to relive their lost hopes, but family may also view their ambitions to chase and pursue their own goals. The talent of one may be preyed upon by a recruiting organization, fulfilling their “dreams” of winning competitions, grooming their novices into polished players. Behind the interrelated web of those beneficiaries, supports, and challenges lies a fire. This fuels drive within us all to pursue our passions and purposes. Roadblocks may be insurmountable at times in even thinking about those aspirations. However, I feel that it is crucial to remember and continue to follow these wishes and intentions no matter the speed. These passions and interests are a core aspect of our identity, and our participation in related activities whether large or small allows us to inhabit our true selves and to blossom more fully.

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I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the Play to the Whistle Blogathon hosted by Film and TV 101 and Reffing Movies. Please check out posts regarding sports-related films associated with this blogathon between June 3 – July 8 (I am putting up my post early)!

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2 thoughts on “Hoop Dreams (1994)

  1. Nice piece on a brilliant documentary. It’s such a human tragedy, more dramatic than most scripted dramas and, as you opened with, a solid meditation the external variables that life throws at our dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

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