For nearly five years Arthur Agee's and William Gates' remarkable lives were chronicled by a team of filmmakers. Roughly 250 hours of film were devoted to their journeys from the playgrounds to high school competition to college recruitment and whittled down to three hours it became the award-winning film Hoop Dreams. Now journalist Ben Joravsky vividly brings to light all the richness and subtlety of their stories, and the impact their aspirations had on themselves, their families and their relationships. It is an intimate look, complete with an up-to-date epilogue on the latest developments in their lives.
About the Author
Ben Joravsky is a prize winning journalist whose piece about Chicago's Roosevelt High School was chosen as one of 1992's outstanding sports articles.
Co-author of Race and Politics in Chicago,he is a resident of Chicago, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
Big Earl Smith, the super scout of the playground basketball courts, had been watching Arthur Agee for a day, maybe two, before he made his move and asked Arthur if he would take him home to meet his parents.
It was mid-July 1987, and Arthur was all of fourteen years old, 5'6" and 125 pounds. Big Earl tracked him down at the Delano school's scruffy, two-court playground over on Wilcox near the Expressway on Chicago's West Side. The air was filled with the buzz of cars whirring past the West Side toward the suburbs; mothers calling their children; and a half-dozen young kids, all elbows and bones and dressed in cut-offs and sweaty tanktops, shouting and playing between banged-up cars, in the streets and all around the tenements. Hovering high to the east were the skyscrapers of the business district, walls of steel and glass. Some of the players on the Delano courts could live and die in Chicago and never see the other side of that wall. But they had been playing basketball practically noon tin night almost from the day they were born.
Recently Big Earl had been having doubts about scouting playground talent. He was starting to think these boys should search out other dreams. But he was in no mood to challenge the status quo, at least not today. It was dreadfully hot. And he still had some faith in the dream, and he still had dreams of his own.
Arthur was playing against guys two or three years older, and at least six inches taller. They called him "runt." In defiance, Arthur dribbled the ball from one end of the court to the othercoast to coast, as they saythrough his legs, around his back, and straight up the middle. Hedidn't dunk -he was too short for thatbut he charged strong, drawing cheers from the kids on the edge of the court waiting for their chance to play.
Big Earl liked to be pragmatic, and had a built-in immunity against inflating talent. He could see right away, though, that Arthur Agee was special. He had speed and he could jump, but it was a combination of talents and traits that caught Earl's trained eye. Arthur had long, sinewy arms that swept along the ground and spidery fingers that iron-gripped the ball. He probably had another six or so inches to grow. He was quick with the first step and watched the court as he ran. He had a head, toohe knew when to pass and when to drive, and he controlled the flow of the game. He had this little spin move, not unlike Isiah Thomas's, and he could bring the ball behind his back or between his legs. When he got hot the shot fell, and he wouldn't miss. He wasn't afraid to shoot, even with the older, taller guys in his face.
This kid was born to play the point, born to run the show, and true point guards are hard to find. You can't hide talent like this, Big Earl thought. He's going to be discovered sooner or later. Alight as well be by me.
"Hey, son," Big Earl called out to Arthur. "Come over herefor a minute."
Arthur strolled over, sweat dripping from his brow. He had, in fact, been watching Big Earl while Big Earl had been watching him. He figured that Big Earl had to be a scout, why else would he come to the West Side on a hot, sticky day to watch a bunch of kids scramble after a ball.
They stood face to face by the fence. Big Earl, well over six feet tall and closing in on three hundred pounds, towered over Arthur. He extended his hand, swallowing Arthur's in a grip. In his meandering, amiable way, he introduced himself. "I'm Earl Smith, and I do some high school scouting," he said as he handed Arthur his business card. Arthur slipped the card into his pocket with barely a glance. It was the first business card Arthur had ever seen.
"What's your name, son?" Big Earl asked.
Big Earl drew a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his forehead.
"Uh-huh. And what high school are you planning to attend?"
Arthur shrugged. He hadn't given it much thought. The closest school was Marshall over on West Adams, where the neighborhood kids went. "Marshall," he said.
"What about St. Joe's?"
Arthur gave him a blank look. St. Joe's meant nothing to him.
"That's where Isiah went," Big Earl said.
That made Arthur's face brighten.
"I can arrange a visit, if you're interested. I scout for St.Joe. I know the coach, Gene Pingatore. He coached Isiah, and there isn't a finer high school coach in the suburbs or city."
Arthur had long ago learned from his father that the first rule in negotiationsand that's what this waswas never to show your hand. But when Big Earl mentioned Isiah's name all rules were forgotten. Isiah Thomas was Arthur's idol: a sixfoot tall point guard, another West Side kid who against all odds climbed his way out of poverty and into the NBA. Arthur had Isiah's picture on his wall. He had even adopted Isiah's old playground nickname, Tuss, as his own.
"Yeah," said Arthur a little too eagerly. "I'm interested."
Big Earl smiled and wiped his brow again. "I tell you what, Arthur. Let's not get ahead of ourself. This is a very important decision in your life. I should meet your momma ... does your daddy live at home?"
"Then I should meet him, too. And let's take it from there."
They shook hands again and then Arthur took off. He was too excited to play any more basketball that day. He darted home to tell his parents, taking a shortcut through a vacant, weed-filled lot to their six-room apartment on the top floor of a two-story walk-up near Madison and Pulaski. His mother, Sheila, was ironing in the living room and listening to the Temptations on the radio when he flew through the door.
What People are Saying About This
"Reveals just how literally basketball is a means of survival in the inner city....Hoop Dreams offers new perspectives not only on basketball, but on family and societal relationships."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
what do you love? for alot of us we love things that simply have the ability to make us feel good. In hoopdreams these young men had basketball that they loved. They went the extra mile to be happy, to show dedication, and loyalty to the game. hoopdreams is a breath taking story about two young men from chicago who both got recruited to go to a big time high school. One young man was poor with alot of hardship, which eventually caused him to switch school due to his financial stability. He ended up going to another high school by the name of Marshall, while the other young man stayed at St.joesph. This young man ended up being held back by multiple injuries to his right knee. He still managed to be a basketball all american and to earn a basketball scholarship to Marqutte. The other young man ended up goin to a JC, but career went futher then the one who got a scholarship to Marqutte. This was an amazing story and can help alot of people who wished to have a basketball career. In many ways its inspiring. It shows you its possible to achieve the unachievable. Its shows you patients pays off, and that if you stay positive and keep working hard anything is possible. Will i recommend this story to any one else? yes, even the people who cant relate because its an true story and the same way this young man worked hard for wat they want. The next person also has to do the same for wat they want and it teaches you how to do that.
This movie goes for all the little sorties¿ out there that want to be like Mike Jordan. This is the story of two young athletes, Arthur Agee and William gates who are tow basket ball players that have the same opportunity of chasing their dreams of playing in the NBA, but as time passes they grow older and their dreams grow shorter, each one facing different obstacles in their life while keeping their hopes up. It¿s a must see movie I loved it when we were watching it in class, I guarantee that you are going to love it. I give it four out of five stars.
Hoop Dreams touches your heart and soul. You cannot help yourself when it comes to reading this book because of the story and how much you want them to make it. I would encourage anyone to read this book not just sports fans.
I love basketball. This book is so interesting even to ppl who don't like 2 read. This book was so AWESOME! Read it!!
Hoop Dreams was one of the best books I have ever read. I recomend this book to anybody that loves basketball. I read the book 5 times.
This is a wonerful portayal of the story of these two black boys trying to get on in an all 'white' high school. Nowadays from a personal experience Saint Joseph High School has changed in an upmost fantastic way; with great programs for 'slower' kids. I am a sophomore in this school in Weschester, Illinois.