What Ever Happened to the Stars of ‘Hoop Dreams’?

From The Wall Street Journal:

Film maker Frederick Marx would welcome a piece of the royalties from the spate of recent sports documentaries, many of them “clearly inspired by our film,” “Hoop Dreams,” which he made with Steve James and Peter Gilbert.

In turn, Marx would owe Buzz Bissinger, author of “Friday Night Lights,” a book he read and gave to his colleagues during the filming of their movie, which became one of the highest-grossing documentaries.

Marx, James and Gilbert spoke after a screening of “Hoop Dreams” this week at Lincoln Center in New York. They were joined by Arthur Agee, one of the two black teenagers from inner-city Chicago whose lives were depicted in the 1994 movie.

The documentary was introduced by New York Knicks player Baron Davis, a two-time NBA All-Star, who called it “the first film that someone like myself could relate to.” Davis, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and was playing basketball at the small private Crossroads School in Santa Monica when “Hoop Dreams” was released, said it reflected his experiences.

He would watch the movie in later years “when I need motivation.” “It had a big impact on me” and is “something that I cherish to this day,” Davis added.

The film makers followed Agee and William Gates for about five years as they played basketball in high school and moved on to college. Both were recruited to play at the private, mostly white St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Ill., about 90 minutes from their homes. Agee and Gates dreamed of playing in the NBA, following the path of 12-time NBA All-Star and retired Detroit Pistons player Isiah Thomas, who attended St. Joseph.

Agee, 39, now has a sports-clothing line and teaches a “Hoop Dreams” curriculum to middle-school students through his foundation.

He called the movie a blessing and a curse. Money from the film allowed him to buy a house for his family in a safer neighborhood but having a camera and “three white guys” following him in one of the toughest areas of Chicago made him a target when the camera wasn’t there, Agee said.

Gates, now a pastor with his own church in inner-city Chicago, and Agee both saw family members—Gates’ brother and Agee’s father–murdered in the years after “Hoop Dreams” was made.

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