Posted: Tuesday August 29, 2006 1:10PM; Updated: Wednesday August 30, 2006 2:15AM
Arthur's mother, Sheila, was so devastated by her husband's murder that she moved to her hometown of Birmingham, Ala. (Arthur told me a burglar broke into his mother's house in Alabama last month.) That left Arthur with the responsibility of selling his father's house. "I've never sold a house, dude," Arthur says. "It got so bad I had to take out a loan on my car title just to rent a truck to move everything out of my dad's church. My family got broken up when my dad got killed. Now I'm just trying to get back on my feet as far as my personal life is concerned, because my stuff was way out of order."
In an effort to gain some financial security, Arthur applied for a bank loan. That led to another disturbing revelation. The woman at the bank told him he was registered as deceased. According to Arthur, it turns out Bo had used Arthur's Social Security number to take out some two dozen credit cards in Arthur's name, and some of them were delinquent. That left Arthur several thousand dollars in debt and his credit in shambles. It also put him in the position of contacting the Berwyn police to, as he puts it, "file a report on a dead dad."
"He scammed me," Arthur says. "I actually would have to press charges against him if he were alive." Asked if he feels anger toward his father, Arthur replied, "Do I? You don't understand. If my dad was alive, I'd want to kill him. To just swallow it and say like God wants, to turn the other cheek? That's hard to do."
Sadly, Bo's murder is not the only tragedy to befall one of the main characters in Hoop Dreams. Curtis Gates, the older brother of William Gates, the film's other protagonist, was killed in a carjacking in September 2001. Though William and Arthur appear together for barely a couple of minutes in the movie, they were actually very close friends and remain so to this day. William understands better than most what Arthur and his family are going through, and it pains him to see his friend struggle.
"When I went to Bo's funeral, it really raised for me the very emotions I dealt with when Curtis passed," William says. "During that first year, you go through what I call the first of everything. The first birthday without him, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas. It takes time to move on. I remember for a while there I was just stuck. That's what Arthur's going through right now. He's stuck."
Still, life might be a little more stable for Arthur if he had spent the last 12 years building a dependable career. Unlike William, who became an ordained minister and runs the Living Faith ministry in the Chicago project where he grew up, Arthur is still banking his future on the fame he gained from Hoop Dreams. After spending several years bouncing around professional minor leagues (who signed him mostly for the p.r. benefits), Arthur tried to launch a Hoop Dreams clothing line two years ago but had to put it on hiatus because of a lack of investor interest. He created the Arthur Agee Role Model Foundation, he pitches himself as a motivational speaker, and these days he is spending a lot of time trying to stir up interest in another nascent nonprofit organization. He recently launched a Web site,Arthuragee.com, which he hopes will help him spread the word about his various ventures and allow him to sell Hoop Dreams memorabilia.
Arthur's financial pressures are exacerbated by the $900 he must pay every month in child support. Wouldn't it be easier, I asked, to meet those obligations if he had a steady job? "F--- that!" he replied with a laugh. "Those people have no lives. They're working for someone else. I see a better life for me and my family. Besides, my nonprofit is going to need me. There aren't too many jobs where you can just take off and fly somewhere."
Another of Arthur's recent brainstorms was to put out another movie depicting what his life is like now. A film crew has recorded some 200 hours of footage, but while Arthur and his partner have gotten a few nibbles in Hollywood, so far they have not found a buyer.
Arthur tried to enlist William Gates in his film project, but William passed, mostly because Arthur was not working with the same producers who made Hoop Dreams. "Sometimes Arthur will say, 'Hey, just trust me.' I can't just do that. We're not kids anymore," William says. "I never put all my eggs in the Hoop Dreams basket. I have a wife and four children, and at the end of the day, they're saying, What's for dinner?"
I asked William if he thought Arthur was hanging on too long to his Hoop Dreams notoriety. "I'd say so," he replied. "Arthur has great vision and great potential, but it takes hard work, too. It's like basketball. If you know you're weak at shooting jump shots, you don't wait until the layup line to start working on your shooting."
Today, Arthur lives in a house owned by his girlfriend of six years. The house is located in Berwyn, just down the street from where Bo used to live. "Every day I drive through that alley, just to be there," he says. "That's the place he died. I go back and look at the garage, look at the house."
With the dreams he harbored as a teenager having gone by the wayside, Arthur must now figure out how best to deal with his current reality. "Every day is different. You have to hope that in the end the good days will outweigh the bad ones," he says. "I know God has a plan for my life, man. I've just got to ask no questions and keep going down this road."