I spent the last couple of nights watching Hoop Dreams for the first time in 25 years. It remains an absolutely astounding film, almost certainly the best sports documentary of all time and with an argument for the best documentary ever made. Of course, it’s about two promising young basketball players in Chicago with the cameras following them through the high school system. You never know how that’s going to turn out when you start a project like that. Well, what happened is that it focused on one very big star who ended up kind of hating the sport and a lesser light who washed out of the rich Catholic school that recruits Black kids but who rose to prominence at his local school. Both kids are examples of an exploitative system that takes advantage of them (Spike Lee appearing at the McDonald’s All-American Camp to just tell the kids this is a highlight). Both deal with serious family issues and it becomes a documentary as much about Black urban life in the late 80s and early 90s as anything about basketball. The coach of the Catholic school is the real villain here, but the whole system is rank exploitation. Watching the college recruiting process take place too was quite eye-opening and that was 30 years ago. Today it’s all the more insane.
Anyway, I know lots of you have seen this so let’s talk about this remarkable piece of filmmaking.