Hoop Dreams is a compelling documentary which follows the life of two young basketball stars from Chicago, Arthur Agee and William Gates. When the film starts, both Arthur and William are ninth graders from the inner city. William goes to an elite private school known for producing NBA basketball great Isiah Thomas. Arthur Agee goes to a large public school. The title of the movie comes from their shared dream to play basketball in the NBA. Given their considerable talent, they both have a legitimate chance. William is often compared to Isiah Thomas at the same age by his coach.
Arthur goes to public school, and there is a contrast between the emphasis the two schools place on basketball. The private school coach seems much more active in William's life than Arthur's coach is in his life. The attention comes off as self-centered, though, as William's coach seems more concerned about going "down state" for the state finals than about William as a person.
The film follows the teens' ups and downs throughout high school. William misses an important free throw during a loss in the state tournament, while Arthur has struggles with poverty and schoolwork.
As the boys mature, colleges begin to show interest. William is visited by many top coaches from many top programs. Arthur gets a few nibbles, but not from the elite programs.
William suffers an injury late in his high school career, and some of the top college programs back off of his recruitment. He never makes it "down state" to play in the state basketball finals. However, Arthur does his senior year.
Despite his setbacks, William receives a scholarship offer from Marquette University. Arthur attends junior college.
The film is less about the disappointment of William and Arthur's dreams, but more an honest portrayal of what life is like for those from the inner city with a lot of athletic promise, but few other options.