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    SUBJECTS — Sports/Basketball; U.S. 1991 - present; Diversity, & 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.

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

    Benefits of the Movie:     "Hoop Dreams" shows the interaction between talented athletes and their families with the schools that hold the key to their future.

    Possible Problems:    MINOR. There is some profanity in this film.

    Parenting Points:     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.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      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.

      Director:  Steve James.

Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   What was the importance of their skill at basketball to Arthur and William? Was it just a sport?

Suggested Response: It was their ticket out of poverty.

    Helpful Background:

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

See the entry for this film in Reading in the Reel World: Teaching Documentaries and Other Nonfiction Texts by John Golden, National Council of Teachers of English, 2006.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    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?

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Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    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?

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.>

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    Bridges to Reading: None.


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