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Hoop Dreams and Agency

Hoop Dreams is a documentary filmed in 1994 that follows two inner-city African American teenage boys who hope to one-day play professional basketball. The teenage boys, William Gates and Arthur Agee, have high aspirations to go to college and provide for their families, despite the harsh environment they have grown up in and face each day.

Throughout the film, both Arthur and William make decisions that not only affect their lives, but also strongly affects the lives of their parents, siblings, and in William’s case, his child. With this being said, both of the boys express agency in different times during the documentary. In the beginning, the boys are both scouted and given the opportunity to attend St. Joseph’s High School. They both know this decision could strongly affect their futures because of the school’s nationally acclaimed basketball program and its most famous alumnus, Isiah Thomas. Arthur and William both decide to attend St. Joseph’s, but their experiences soon take different paths, as Arthur has to drop out due to tuition costs and William continues to become St. Joseph’s star player. Another big decision has to be made when William gets injured. Although this injury seems to be pretty serious, he knows he has to start playing again as soon as possible so he can be scouted for colleges. At this point in the film, it is not only William’s parents and siblings that are counting on him to make it, but he also has a child he is worried about providing for. In the end, one of the biggest decisions Arthur and William have to face is which college they should attend. Both of their families are hoping their basketball talents will take them into college and beyond so they can be taken out of their poverty-stricken situations. William ends up choosing Marquette University and Arthur decides to go to a junior college in order to later be given a scholarship by a bigger university.

The filmmaker, Steve James, chose to show this idea of agency the way he did in order to depict the way in which inner-city kids have little to no say in the decisions they are forced to make. Arthur and William were lucky enough to be given a great talent for something, but this talent came with a price. Even if they wanted to give up basketball, they knew that would never be an option so long as it was providing for their families.

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