The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American kids who are recruited to a predominantly white high school with an outstanding basketball program. Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices, and acclimating to a foreign social environment, Gates and Agee struggle to improve their athletic skills in a job market with heavy competition. Along the way, their families celebrate their successes and support each other during times of hardship.
The film raises a number of issues concerning race, class, economic division, education and values in contemporary America. It also offers one of the most intimate views of inner-city life to be captured on film. Yet it is also the human story of two young men, their two families and their community, and the joys and struggles they live through over a period of 5 years.
Hoop Dreams received an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing, but was not nominated for Best Documentary. This omission caused considerable controversy at the time.