Arthur Agee 20th Year Anniversary of Hoop Dreams

Arthur Agee 20th Year Anniversary of “Hoop Dreams”
Interviewed and written by Aaron Robinson – Editor

"This is one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen," says Gene Ebert regarding the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams.” The year of 2014 was the 20th Year Anniversary of the film that followed the story of two African-American teenagers in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players, Arthur Agee and William Gates.

I (Consciousness Magazine) recently was given the opportunity to interview Arthur Agee who is the founder of Arthur Agee Jr. Role Model Foundation, an actor, businessman and father. Here is what he had to share about the 20th Year Anniversary of “Hoop Dreams” along with his community efforts and much more with the Consciousness Magazine readers.

Aaron Robinson: This is your 20th Anniversary of the world acclaimed movie “Hoop Dreams”. What has that experience been like for you?
Arthur Agee:  It’s been an overwhelming, humbling and blessed experience! Talking about the documentary of a film, usually documentaries or films of that sort usually are lost in the shuffle over the years that pass by. It’s been a great humbling experience just to meet new people in this generation. When “Hoop Dreams” was made, a lot of kids weren’t even born. So now their parents are showing it to them and they are saying “Arthur Agee, I went to school with him. I know if Art Agee could have a dream, get out of the Westside of Chicago and go get a college degree, I’m sure you can.”

Aaron: How were you chosen to be chronicled for the documentary?
Arthur: It happened just like you seen in the film. I was just out on the playground playing basketball one day and these three guys just came up and started taking video shoots of different basketball courts. This particular day I just happened to be on my basketball court; they saw me. They were originally supposed to do a half hour after school special on PBS about inner-city basketball regarding one playground. When they did that, that’s when they found me. I was just out there playing with my friends and they asked me if I wanted to be a part of their project. It wasn’t even called “Hoop Dreams” at that time. They didn’t even have a working title. I told them that I would love to be a part of it. Next thing you know I’m getting permission from my mom to be a part of it. Once I went out to St. Joseph to meet my idol, Isiah Thomas, that’s when they met Williams Gates through Gean Pingatore, St. Joseph’s head basketball coach. They didn’t know that William and I knew each other. For that to happen that way, I always said that it was God’s blessing for us both to be in this film at the same time and not even know that we were going to be in a film. [Laugh]

Aaron: Oh wow, that’s amazing! As a youth you grew up in the inner-city of Chicago, the Westside as you mentioned. Mentally, how did you escape that harsh environment of your early life?
Arthur: It was just being raised by two great parents, my mom and dad; I call them country parents because they’re from Birmingham, Alabama. When they came to Chicago, my mom and dad, they raised their kids the same way that their mom and dad raised them by giving them all the tools to go out into the world to be upstanding citizens. Once my mom and dad were able to instill that in me, it was just being able to see for myself with my own two eyes - to see what kind of world I was living in, and how quickly those values have to be kept in your heart, because in the inner-city you’re going to be tested every day. Those are the things that really helped me get through and also always being a leader.

Aaron: Do you have any regrets of not making it to the NBA?
Arthur: Early on I did. I always told people that being in “Hoops Dreams” was like a gift and a curse.  Once I really thought about it, I realized that God used his people for different things. For this, he used me. It wasn’t to make it to the NBA, it was always to inspire some other young kid that may have been growing up in the inner-city or a suburb - going through some type of situation – so that when they see the film, they would always know that they could make it and they don’t have to give up early. So having that on my resume, being an inspirational guy, I’ll take that over the NBA any day. “Hoop Dreams” put me in a place where I was able to take advantage of other things such as acting roles, commercials and just being able to travel the world and do different things than I would have normally been able to do if I would have made the NBA. I owe it all to the glory of God.

Aaron: Definitely, that’s a blessing. You mentioned Isiah Thomas; I know that he’s your inspiration. You worked with Isiah Thomas at the Toy Giveaway for his Foundation Mary’s Court where we met in Chicago. Since knowing Isiah, what has your relationship been like with him?
Arthur: Aww man, it was great! I tell people that being at that Toy Drive was something that I know that was orchestrated by a higher power. The day he [Isiah] had the Toy Drive is the same date that’s the anniversary death of my father. I told some people I wasn’t even going to come out. I was just going to stay in the house all day and just remember the memories of my father. I know my dad didn’t want me to do that; he wanted me to get out and just to have my mind still on him, but also to be busy giving back and doing something else. I just happened to hit Isiah on twitter. We became twitter friends probably about two months ago. This particular date, December 15th I sent him a message and he was like “Are you in town?” I was like “Yeah.” He was like, “Meet me at the Marillac House about 2:30.” I was like “Cool!” He didn’t even mention in the message that he was even doing the Toy Drive. When I got over there, I think that was the surprise more so, seeing him and actually doing something for some kids while helping my idol give back through his mom’s foundation. Just imagine how that’s happening on my dad’s anniversary and how I felt. I felt so elated and so joyful! I thanked Isiah and he was thanking me for coming. I said “No, thank you brother!” I got on my knees that night and prayed to God and to my dad. I said thank you for having Mr. Isiah “Big” Thomas [laugh] for inviting me over to his Toy Drive, and having the opportunity to give out some toys and put big smiles on many kids face! That was just awesome to me.

Aaron: Wow! I’m speechless. Wow!
Arthur: That’s the first time I had talked with him and seen him since the movie…since I played him on the basketball court in the movie.

Aaron: That’s definitely spiritual man.
Arthur: Talk about full circle, you know what I’m saying!

Aaron: That’s deep! That’s serious! [Pause] Speaking of foundations, you also have a foundation too called The Arthur Agee Foundation. Can you tell us a little about it?
Arthur: My foundation is called the Arthur Agee Jr. Role Model Foundation. We’ve been started and up and running since 1995, a year after the movie came out. It was basically a family foundation that my mom, dad and I founded together. [It] was something that we wanted to give back to the inner-city because of some of the things that I grew up without. Kids coming up behind us with the same untapped resources, we just wanted to be an outlet and a voice for them that can’t be heard, or for those who don’t have a winter coat or don’t have a turkey to eat at holiday times, and things of that sort. We definitely play a role in the community, as far as being that voice and to help families and kids - to help them have some things in their life that they wouldn’t normally have.

Aaron: That’s great! Do you have any advice or wisdom for young men or the youth who are trying to be a professional basketball player or make it to the NBA?
Arthur: Yeah, I have a model that I live by and something that I promote in my Hoop Dreams Educational Curriculum to all kids. Try to live your hoop dreams and control your own destiny or whatever you do to the best of your ability. I always tell kids to look for their dream job, working for your favorite company or even a sports dream that you always thought that you never could live. Normally, that’s the credo that the kids take from me, because Nike or Adidas, none of these companies out here can tell a kid that. That’s not their brand, that’s not their quote unquote ‘message to the people’. They want you to buy their product. The product that I want you to buy is in yourself, believe in yourself and have confidence. If you have a dream, put it out there, go for it and control your own destiny while you’re doing it.

Aaron: Arthur, would you like to add anything else that we haven’t covered before we end the interview?
Arthur: I just want to say that the year is about to get ready and change. I just want to thank the lord for having me walk in his steps and just being able to live and wake up every day to tackle my hoop dreams and try to control my destiny. All the thanks go to him.

For more information on Arthur Agee and the Arthur Agee Jr. Role Model Foundation

 

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