The 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams consistently gets listed by major publications as one of the best sports documentaries ever made, an incredible feat considering the project was originally intended to be a 30 minute PBS short but was subsequently filmed over a five year period and edited from over 250 hours of footage. It won the Sundance Audience Award for Best Documentary and was a commercial success despite the genre not being renowned as a lucrative one.
The documentary follows the story of two African-American high school students from Chicago as they attempt to realize their dreams of becoming professional basketball players. If you haven’t already seen the documentary then this article is not going to be of much interest to you, so stop immediately and first watch Hoop Dreams. If you have already watched it then you will no doubt have been left wondering what happened to those two students, William Gates and Arthur Agee, in the more than two decades which have followed.
Ultimately, neither of the two players did enough to realize their dreams of being drafted into the NBA although you will probably be delighted to hear that both have gone on to live happy and successful lives nonetheless.
Shortly after the release of the film Arthur Agee’s older half-brother was shot and killed. The film was, famously, an unfinished story. Agee went on to play for Arkansas State and did not accept any payment from the proceeds of the film because payment would have meant losing his amateur status and scholarship (as ruled by the National Collegiate Association).
After completing his scholarship at Arkansas State he was offered the chance to play professionally for Connecticut Pride of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) which he rejected in favour of taking an acting role in the 1999 film Passing Glory. The role did not lead to any more acting opportunities. He now runs the ‘Arthur Agee Foundation’, a not-for-profit through which he speaks at public schools encouraging children to follow their dreams. He also launched his own ‘Hoop Dreams’ clothing line at one stage.
You probably noticed during filming that Agee’s father Bo was filmed openly buying drugs from the street in front of Arthur, his friends, and the cameraman. Soon after the documentary was aired Bo Agee got clean of drugs and became in pastor, but in 2004 was shot dead in what may have been a paid execution.
Gates also went on to play more Basketball, landing himself a scholarship at Marquette University. Like Agee his family also experienced a personal tragedy when in 2001 his older brother Curtis was shot dead in Chicago. Gates was considered the more naturally talented of the two players but knee injuries affected his development and finished any chance he may have still had to play professionally. After graduation he became a Real Estate agent and then later a Senior Pastor, he now gives back to his community as a pastor at the Living Faith Community Center in Cabrini-Green.
In 2001 Gates trained extensively with Michael Jordan in advance of the latters pro comeback, and Gates himself was handed a trial with NBA team Washington Wizards. Injury once again wrecked his chances of earning a contract. Gates today has a son, William Gates Jr, who also has basketball aspirations and went on to play at the same school featured in the documentary. He now plays college basketball for Houston Baptist and it is said that Gates Jr. is a better player than his father (father and son pictured left).
It was never made abundantly clear in the documentary but Gates and Agee became close friends during the five years of filming and still have a strong relationship today. There have been numerous Hoop Dreams reunions and spin-off films and the two have stayed in touch. The image on the right is a photograph taken at a 2012 reunion between the people involved in making the film and one of the subjects, Arthur Agee, the reunion took place at the 50th anniversary of the New York Film Festival. The most recent reunion between Gates and Agee took place in 2016, and some of it was caught on tape with both of them interviewed for moviegeeksunited.net – see the video below.
William Gates & Arthur Agee in 2016 (Video)
Journalist Richard Joravsky authored the book Hoop Dreams: The True Story of Hardship and Triumph, which was published in hardcover and paperback in 1996, it further explored the lives of Agee and Gates, the impact their ambitions had on their families, and brings to life some subtleties of their stories which couldn’t be transmitted in a three hour film.