SUBJECTS — Sports/Basketball; U.S. 1991 – present; Diversity/African-American, & Illinois;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Sportsmanship; Breaking Out; Talent; Alcohol and Drug Abuse;

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Responsibility; Fairness.

AGE: 10+; MPAA Rating — PG-13;

Documentary; 1994; 169 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Give your students new perspectives on race relations, on the history of the American Revolution, and on the contribution of the Founding Fathers to the cause of representative democracy. Check out TWM’s Guide:

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This documentary follows the high school careers of two black teenage boys from the Chicago slums. Both have been identified as having an extraordinary talent for basketball and both dream of escape from poverty through an NBA contract.


Selected Awards:

1994 Chicago Film Critics Awards: Best Film; 1994 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: Best Feature Documentary; Film; 1995 MTV Movie Awards: Best New filmmaker Award (James); 1994 National Board of Review Awards: Best Feature Documentary; 1994 New York Film Critics Awards: Best Feature Documentary; 1995 National Society of Film Critics Awards: Best Feature Documentary; 1994 Sundance Film Festival: Audience Award; 1994 Academy Award Nominations: Best Film Editing. This film is listed in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.

Featured Actors:

Arthur Agee, William Gates and their families.


Steve James.


“Hoop Dreams” shows the interaction between talented athletes and their families with the schools that hold the key to their future.


MINOR. There is some profanity in this film.


This movie drives its lesson home but parents need to repeat that lesson many times. Ninety-nine percent of the people who seek stardom do not make it. Boys and girls who want to be professional athletes should be encouraged to do their best, but also need to prepare themselves for another career. Education is the way to a better life.


This film is a documentary and provides its own factual background.

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1. For these boys, was basketball a job or a sport?


2. What percentage of high school basketball stars go on to long term careers in the NBA or in professional basketball in other countries?


3. What percentage of college scholarship athletes who do not make it to the pros graduate and put their college degrees to use?


4. Was Spike Lee correct that basketball was all about money? Did that apply to the program at Marshall? At St. Joseph’s?



5. What was the importance of their skill at basketball to Arthur and William? Was it just a sport?


6. Both Arthur and William received scholarships to college. Would they have been able to attend college without these scholarships? Was there another way in which they could have gone to college? What about William’s girlfriend, Catherine?


7. What is the relationship between extraordinary talent and breaking out of the usual limitations of one’s social group? Is talent necessary to break out or just helpful? Explain your answer.



8. William and Arthur never seemed to have a problem staying off of drugs and away from the gangs. Why?


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.



(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)


1. Were William and Arthur playing to do their best or were they simply playing for money?



(Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don’t take advantage of others; Don’t blame others carelessly)


2. Evaluate the action of St. Joseph’s in requiring Arthur’s parents to begin making payments on the bill for past tuition before they would release his transcript so that he could graduate from Marshall.


3. Compare the way in which Marquette University treated William and the way St. Joseph’s treated Arthur.


4. St. Joseph’s wanted a championship player and chose William while it excluded Arthur. What do you think of the decision it made in terms of the benefit to its basketball program and in terms of the morality of the decision? How does this relate to the concept of “irony”?


5. What did you think of the coach at St. Joseph’s?



  • Hoop Dreams 1994, site from the producer of the film; Want to know what happened to William and Arthur after the film?

This Learning Guide was last updated on December 10, 2009.

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RANDALL KENNEDY, Professor, Harvard Law School on the two alternative traditions relating to racism in America:

“I say that the best way to address this issue is to address it forthrightly, and straightforwardly, and embrace the complicated history and the complicated presence of America. On the one hand, that’s right, slavery, and segregation, and racism, and white supremacy is deeply entrenched in America. At the same time, there has been a tremendous alternative tradition, a tradition against slavery, a tradition against segregation, a tradition against racism.

I mean, after all in the past 25 years, the United States of America has seen an African-American presence. As we speak, there is an African-American vice president. As we speak, there’s an African- American who is in charge of the Department of Defense. So we have a complicated situation. And I think the best way of addressing our race question is to just be straightforward, and be clear, and embrace the tensions, the contradictions, the complexities of race in American life. I think we need actually a new vocabulary.

So many of the terms we use, we use these terms over and over, starting with racism, structural racism, critical race theory. These words actually have been weaponized. They are vehicles for propaganda. I think we would be better off if we were more concrete, we talked about real problems, and we actually used a language that got us away from these overused terms that actually don’t mean that much.   From Fahreed Zakaria, Global Public Square, CNN, December 26, 2021

Give your students new perspectives on race relations, on the history of the American Revolution, and on the contribution of the Founding Fathers to the cause of representative democracy. Check out TWM’s Guide: TWO CONTRASTING TRADITIONS RELATING TO RACISM IN AMERICA and a Tragic Irony of the American Revolution: the Sacrifice of Freedom for the African-American Slaves on the Altar of Representative Democracy.

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