Demetrius Mitchell is touted in Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell as the greatest basketball player to never play in the NBA. Archival video footage of Hook executing some of the most awe inspiring feats of athleticism would seem to corroborate. Forever burned on my cerebral cortex will be the image of Demetrius launching over the top of a parked Volkswagon and slamming the ball home with authority. Hook pulled this ungodly act off at a relatively diminutive 5’9". Seeing Hook’s remarkable abilities makes the story of his fall from grace that much more tragic.
You've gotta be kidding!
Mitchell’s story begins on basketball’s Mecca for fledgling talent — Oakland, California. Hook grew up on the playground with future NBA players Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Brian Shaw, and others. While the aforementioned players aren’t too shabby having netted (no pun intended) several NBA championship rings, appearances at All Star Games, and countless clutch performances, Payton, Kidd, and Shaw attest that Mitchell’s gift dwarfed all of them. It’s hard to imagine anything derailing such irrepressible talent on the basketball court. Hook’s tremendous talent was unfortunately matched by a home life and social context that was tremendously damaging.
Directors Michael Skolnik and William O’ Neill (Jails, Hospitals, and Hip Hop) give equal time documenting Hook‘s unfathomable talent and his maddening descent. Hook was raised primarily by his grandmother as his biological mother was a drug addict. His brother, Larry was a well established drug dealer by the time Hook was in high school. Living in West Oakland, Hook was exposed to pushers, prostitutes, and other harsh elements.
With a dearth of positive influences, Hook’s talent would be undermined by the sway of almost insurmountable negative influences. By the time Hook was in high school he was being rewarded by his unwholesome posse with a $100 bill for each slam dunk he made. Cocaine became his calisthenics routine before a game. It supplanted Gatorade at halftime. Despite the efforts of Gary Payton and Brian Shaw, little could be done to halt Hook’s downward spiral.
The nadir for Hook occurred right around the time of the NBA All Star Game taking place in Oakland in 1999. Strung out and hard up, Hook attempted to knock over a local Blockbuster and would end up incarcerated. Skolnick and O’Neill capture a candid, heartfelt, and humbled Demetrius behind bars. Hook comes across as optimistic and eager to make amends for his past mistakes. Demetrius is a man who always wanted to do good, but just didn’t have the resources or support to make it happen.