Hoop Dreams is one of the great cinematic experiences of my lifetime. Its length gives a good sense of the passing time and lets us feel an intimacy towards the hopes and aspirations of its characters. Although a documentary, Hoop Reams has more of a cinematic appeal because of the intrigue factor missing in most of the documentaries.
The tale is of two African-Americans William Gates and Arthur Agee who aspire to become NBA champions. As the tale progresses, the two tales oscillate between being poles apart and morphing into one another. This is a classic underdog story which hasn’t lost its appeal since it was released in 1994. It may be because of the gritty realism in Steve James’ storytelling. He doesn’t shoot with any preconceived ideas, as if to project it as an emotional drama or underdog story, he just lets wheels of fate work its motions and captures it unadulterated. Hoop Dreams is more of two characters realizing how easy it is to dream and how distant the dreams actually are.
The underlying theme also explores the American education system and its flaws and how its structure forces poverty-ridden kids to continue to live in the rut and monotony of life. The coaches and relatives win our hearts with their pragmatic testimonies, where they express their insecurities about the dreams of William and Arthur, yet never let these insecurities transpire before them.
Both William and Arthur never became NBA champions. William became a pastor while Arthur started his own clothing line. The movie, therefore misses the third act, where the character finally tastes sweet success. And good for the viewers too, for it gives a message that most sports movies seem to skip out on, that just because someone doesn’t make it to the top, it doesn’t give us an excuse to not remember them. It is broken dreams and aspirations that make a sport rather than the success stories.