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EEC: Documentary Studies

Previewing our next documentary film selection, “Hoop Dreams”

The Econ Extra Credit Team Feb 25, 2021
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It’s almost time for March Madness, the NCAA’s annual single-elimination Division I basketball tournament. So for our documentary this month, we’ve made a topical selection: “Hoop Dreams,” a 1994 film following two promising young ball players in Chicago through high school, from 1987 to 1991, as they endeavor to lead their teams to the state tournament and earn athletic scholarships to attend college.

More of a story about people than about any specific economic concept or business phenomenon, the film is an unconventional choice for our series. But the real-life drama in “Hoop Dreams,” on and off court, illustrates the systemic economic and social challenges that so many would-be athletes come up against at a young age. The exciting moments one might expect in a sports movie — tough workouts, playoff games and shots at the buzzer — are heightened by the viewer’s awareness of just how much is at stake.

For anyone who watched ESPN Films’ “The Last Dance” on Netflix, “Hoop Dreams” is a compelling accompaniment. It takes place within a few miles of Chicago’s United Center during the same years that Michael Jordan and the Bulls were driving toward their first in a long string of NBA championships. It’s a motif throughout the documentary.

We hope you’ll watch “Hoop Dreams” along with us. The film is three hours long, meaning you may want to split it up over a couple of nights. It’s available to stream for free with a library card on Kanopy or on various subscription-based streaming services.

If you’re an athlete or coach — at any level — we would love to hear from you this month. Let us know if you think the 25-year-old “Hoop Dreams” documentary still resonates today. You can email us at, and we’ll feature some of those answers in an upcoming newsletter.

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