In 1994 the basketball world became compelled by the story of two Chicago high school students and their dreams of playing in the NBA. It was originally only meant to be a 30-minute PBS documentary, but five years later, the production team was still filming. The stories were fascinating back in 1994, and this is what the cast members of ‘Hoop Dreams’ have done since.
During the documentary, we saw Willaim Gates showcase his talent on the basketball court. As a young basketball player, he was dubbed ‘the next Isiah Thomas’ by his head coach at high school. There were a lot of expectations on Gates, but after an ultimately disappointing high school career, he found himself at Marquette University.
Gates played two seasons before quitting the team, although he did later rejoin his college classmates on the court. After college, Gates returned to Chicago and worked a host of different jobs before trying to make a basketball comeback in 2001.
Despite his best efforts, Gates suffered a foot injury, which finally put an end to his dreams of playing in the NBA. Instead, Gates devoted himself to a different discipline and became a preacher. His son, Willaim Gates Jr., also played basketball in college, but as yet, he hasn’t made it into the major leagues.
The documentary starts with the thin and happy Arthur Agee playing one-on-one with Chicago basketballing hero Isiah Thomas. As a teenager, Agee had huge potential, and he was the captain of his school basketball team. Following high school, Agee played two years of college basketball for Division I school Arkansas State.
Unfortunately for Agee, he never managed to make the jump to the NBA, despite his potential. He still found a way to make money while playing basketball however, and Agee had a semi-professional career, even dabbling in Slamball.
Agee felt as though the documentary was both good and bad for him. He said it helped him and his family to move out of their neighborhood in Chicago, but it also brought a lot of unwanted attention. Agee created his own clothing line based on the ‘Hoop Dreams’ documentary, with his clothes bearing the slogan “Control Your Destiny.” The former NBA hopeful still lives in the Chicago area and works as a motivational speaker as well as founding the Arthur Agee Foundation.
Another unforgettable person in the ‘Hoop Dreams’ documentary was coach Gene Pingatore, who constantly seemed to be grouchy. The coach continued to take charge of St. Joseph’s high school basketball team well into his 70s. He had a tough approach to coaching basketball that not everyone in the documentary agreed with, including the two main stars. Pingatore did prove he could coach players to make it in the NBA though, and he helped current Minnesota Timberwolves star Evan Turner progress.
‘Hoop Dreams’ was a hugely important documentary for many basketball fans. Its modest budget of $700,000 was initially more than expected, but ultimately the film grossed over $11 million at the box office. Sadly the stars didn’t make it to the NBA, but their stories remain fascinating.