HoopsHype.com Interviews

Hook Mitchell: "Everything in my life is starting to come together"
by AJ Hayes / August 14, 2004

You’re in New York promoting Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell, a film about your life as a streetball icon. What’s the response been like as you travel around talking about your life?

Hook Mitchell: The response has been incredible. I just took a bunch of pictures with some kids and I’ve been visiting the schoolyard blacktops mads famous for its streetballers. At Rucker Park I was amazed that all these people knew who I am. I was really blown away. I feel like everything in my life is starting to come together now. It’s really been stunning.

How did you get your start in basketball? Were you always better than the other kids on the playground?

HM: I saw myself as baseball player first and was playing that every day. I wanted play for the Oakland A’s. Then around 13 years old, I picked up basketball and that was it. I stopped baseball and played basketball year round. I really took to it. It was like I was born to ball.

Oakland has long been a hotbed for basketball. Who were some of the guys that you came up with?

HM: I played with cats like Brian Shaw, Gary Payton, Antonio Davis, Rex Walters. Oakland is basketball crazy and it’s a place that will challenge you to get better or give it up.

Brian Shaw said you were better than all the other kids. And he wasn’t just talking about stuffing the ball. You could also handle the ball and defend like a mother.

HM: Yeah, I was as good as all of those guys. Lots of people think I’m a one-dimensional player because I jumped over the Bug and slammed it down. But I can also handle the ball. I could get past anyone and take the rock to the hoop.

You have had some crazy dunks. Like you said, you’ve slammed the ball after leaping over a VW Bug. Was that your best dunk ever?

HM: No that’s the one everyone talks about, but my best dunk was at Kelly Park in Menlo Park in the Bay Area when I stuffed the ball and the glass backboard shattered into a million pieces. You see I’m just about 5-foot-10, I’m not like some of those big dudes like Shaq and Darryl Dawkins, whose weight had something to do with the board coming down. For a small guy like myself to throw one down with that type of force is crazy and unheard of.

A lot of people say you could have been a star in the NBA, but trouble seemed to follow you around. You spent time in prison for holding up a video store with a water pistol. Was it tough sitting in the joint watching basketball and wondering what could have been?

HM: Actually it wasn’t tough to watch basketball. I had only myself to blame for what happened. I made one bad choice after another. I can’t shift the blame to other people or my environments. I could have shifted that bad energy into something positive, now I’m doing that.

You were able to turn the prison experience into something positive. How did you manage to do that?

HM: I feel I grew and matured a lot in prison. I educated myself by reading a lot. I read the Koran and everywhere I went I had the dictionary. I studied that every day. I had to recapture what was inside of me and replenish my soul.

Michael Skolnik and William O’Neill, co-directors of Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell came and visited you in prison for an interview. Did you think they were joking when they contacted you.

HM: Yeah, when they asked me about doing a film, it was like ‘who me?’ But it’s been amazing getting my story out there and hopefully young kids will see the movie and get inspiration and not make the same mistakes I did.

AJ Hayes is a San Francisco-based sports writer and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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