According to Roger Ebert, after the film failed to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, he and Gene Siskel learned about the nominating process. He said that members of the Academy's documentary committee held flashlights when they watched documentaries, and anyone who had "given up" could wave it against the screen. The movie was turned off if a majority waved their flashlights. Hoop Dreams (1994) was turned off after 15 minutes.
When the film failed to be nominated for Best Documentary, even though it was nominated for Best Film Editing, Entertainment Weekly ran a story about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected documentary nominations. Most of the voting members were not documentary filmmakers, and many worked against nominating the film. As a result, the rules were changed to allow documentary filmmakers to vote in that category.
The film was originally intended to be a 30-minute PBS special about multiple players on a single basketball court. After 5 years, the filmmakers had shot 250 hours of footage, which was trimmed down to 3 hours.
To stay eligible for college basketball (according to NCAA rules), neither player's family received any money for the film's sale while in school. Agee and Gates were later made full partners and received shares equal to the producers'.
St. Joseph High School filed a lawsuit to prevent the film from being released to theaters. They claimed they were told the film would only air on PBS, and accused the filmmakers of misrepresenting and defaming the school. The two sides reached a settlement, and the filmmakers created an academic fund at the school.
Many of the locations used in the movie are either gone or substantially different. The neighborhood around the Cabrini-Green housing project, where one of the players lived, underwent "gentrification" soon after the film wrapped. The baseball field has been replaced by luxury condos and a shopping complex. The last Cabrini-Green apartment building was demolished in May 2011.
Arthur Agee did go onto play professional basketball after the movie was released. He was chosen as the No.1 pick in the newly form USBL (United States Basketball League) by the Florida Sharks in 1995. He was released by the team and quickly picked up by the Long Island Surf. He eventually ended up in Canada playing in Winnipeg with a team called the Cyclones.
The Agee Family soon moved out of the neighborhood where you saw them in the film long after the film was released in a suburb part of Ilinois. Arthur Agee remembers alot of his friends that had associated with or was personally close to had died and had vowed to leave especially after he was robbed at gunpoint as shown in the film before he left for Arkansas.
William Gates did return to Marquette after a brief period of personal despair in his life. When the film was released in the Fall of 1994 during his Senior Year, he received a standing ovation when Marquette was playing in Madison Square Garden during the National Invitational Tournament (N.I..T) after his face appeared on the scoreboard. He was seen on the television looking overwhelmed and in tears for a moment.
William Gates was chosen by NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan to play as part of a group of former and current pro-NBA Players when he was making his comeback with the Washington Wizards in 2001. Gates who had been a whopping 260 pounds had gotten into serious shape and had lost over 50 pounds (190 pounds at that point) because he felt that it was the right time for one more comeback to play in the NBA with the encouragement of his wife, Catherine. Unfortunately, a broken foot and the tragic murder of his brother Curtis, who was helping him with his comeback attempt happend before he was ready to report to play with Jordan.
William Gates became a Church pastor in the area where the Cabrini-Green projects were once located. He was in terrible state personally when he began being involved with the Church and has had lots of people whom he had known personally from Cabrini become part of his congregation. Arthur Agee's father, Bo also became a Church minister after he had been given a second chance from the life of drugs and abuse he had done in his life until his untimely passing in 2004.
Steve James, one of the co-directors of the film, directed the film, Prefontaine for Disney which was based on the life of runner Steve Prefontaine, which was released 4 years after the final completion of this film.
After Bo Agee's passing, Sheila Agee, Arthur's mother had to move to Alabama because of the serious effect that his father's passing had both on him along with the rest of the Agee family as stated by the film's directors.
William Gates and his wife, Catherine moved to San Antonio, Texas along with their sons because they had both gotten tired of Chicago since they had both lived their all their lives and wanted their sons to play basketball only if they wanted to and not forced upon them like it was on William.
Arthur Agee in 2007 did his own personal "Hoop Dreams" follow up called "Hoop Reality" which was based on current NBA player Patrick Beverly who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers which the Directors of this film were proud of him to make.
The late Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both championed this film on their television show and were both clearly and visibly upset when the film was not chosen or even considered as a 1994 Best Picture Contender or even in the Best Documentary Category. What made them upset was the way the voting process went about which was caused the Entertainment Weekly article which ran in July 1995, which featured the proof that they both personally felt that the film was completely snubbed for what they felt was a group of people who were only interested in "talking heads" or "old documentary stock footage" which ran no longer than 90 minutes or longer which were pretty much the same as other documentaries that had come out before and when Hoop Dream was released. The other complaint which played out as further proof was that the Documentary branch of the Oscars, were mostly people who were volunteers who had no Chairperson who only had time to watch as many of these types of films within a certain time frame during the day which also led to the films' quick dismissal as those voters gave it a low score on purpose when many critics and other voters gave it the highest score possible and would've been an Oscar contender in which many have stated would've won for Best Documentary had this not happened. This lead to serious reform within the Documentary Branch within months after the controversy.
The film was ultimately nominated for Best Picture Editing which spurred a serious controversy when it came to the film for either Best Picture or Best Documentary because of the way the process was handled by the voters who purposely gave the film a lower score for the film to disappear off the ballot because the chairman who was part of the Documentary Branch had her own film in the running and voted for that film as a favor. The film would spur a reform in the way the Documentary branch would handle future films under this category.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Both players suffered much tragedy after filming wrapped. In 1994, Arthur Agee's older half-brother, DeAntonio, was gunned down at Cabrini-Green. In 2001, William Gates' brother, Curtis, was killed in a carjacking. In 2004, Arthur's father, Bo, was shot to death in an alley. On Nov. 4, 2009, at a 15th anniversary screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Arthur told the audience that ten of his friends from the film had died.