A Nation Will Be Hooked

By Walik Edwards
Updated: October 27, 2004

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—When it’s told about that fateful day when Demetrius Mitchell was arrested for robbing an Oakland area Blockbuster, it is the most heartbreaking of circumstances because at that moment, there was no coming back – and all that Mr. Mitchell could have become, was impenetrably walled up forever.

The Kicked Down Production and Fader Films documentary “Hooked, The legend of Demetrius ‘Hook’ Mitchell” is an unforgiving look at a man who couldn’t survive the negative gravitational pull of gritty West Oakland, and surrendered so much because of it.

As he himself calls it, “One flush of the toilet.”

Mitchell does not have the look of a legend throughout the movie – missing teeth, uncombed hair, and looking 15 to 20 years older than his actual age.

All of this may be a product of starting a drug habit at the age of 10, or being a desperate addict of drugs whose demons told him to rob that Blockbuster – but wherever his disheveled look originated from, he was another good one that went astray.

It’s stated early on that Mitchell stands just 5’9″, which in any basketball circle is considered short. However, he is suddenly eight feet tall when people talk about his legendary dunk performances, which includes jumping over a Volkswagen (documented on video by the film) en route to a dunk, from throwing down a breakaway slam in an organized prison league game.

According to former and current basketball players, including Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks, and former players Gary Payton of the Boston Celtics, Brian Shaw and Antonio Davis, his height wouldn’t have stopped him, where his awful choices did better than any zone defense could have.

He was close to these players, especially Payton, who said that he was very close to going into that direction if it were not for his father, who is familiarly known by knowledgeable NBA fans as “Mr. Mean.” He also called Mitchell, “one of the best who never made it.”

It’s funny to see Kidd give Mitchell superhero props by saying, “He could jump over a building.” But having that come from a superstar like Kidd, you realize how much of an institution Mitchell was in that area of West Oakland.

With everyone who is spoken to beyond the California Men’s Colony walls, there is extreme sadness when they speak about Mitchell. His basketball ability is just a piece of what he was to those who knew him. What he was as a person became more important because all his friends and family began to see where he was headed, and seemed sorry in a sense that they didn’t come up with the secret formula to stop him on his wayward path.

Shaw talks about having to fire his friend from a camp he running, after Mitchell was caught stealing basketballs and t-shirts. He called it tough love, but the look on his face was like everyone else’s with a lamentable story about Hook – a look of unrelenting sadness and confusion.

The film spends a lot of time soliciting stories from those who know him. When the sun was up and he was playing basketball, he was a great person. The sun settled behind the East Bay area night, and Demetrius Mitchell was a different person – one who became a victim of the demons of the night, and was powerless to stop them from taking his soul before it was too late.

Tales of his parents being the worst degree of drug addicts, a brother who was a big-time drug dealer, and his own sleeping in the streets and nocturnal behavior which led him to horrid activities associated with drugs, are powerful stuff. Stories that should make parents want to hold their kids really tight, and encourage them to walk the good path.

“Basketball was my God, so was drugs.” There was not a stronger statement made in the film, and with God being the power most believers give themselves onto unconditionally, it can be understood how no one would be able to help Hook Mitchell with the lure of drugs.

The talk about the prison, or the footage shot there isn’t harsh and gritty because what could be worse than a man so blessed being locked up in a cage like an animal?

He referred to the situation of being incarcerated as sleeping by a swamp.

It’s not known whether he’s always had the level of respect he shows when we’re introduced to him, using the word “sir” to greet everyone, you realize between that and his conversion to Islam, things have started to come to him. He expresses this with heartbreaking emotion and thanks before he is to be released from prison.

Throughout it all, never a bad word was said about Demetrius Mitchell, who said in the film, “It’s hard for me to say I’m a legend.”

The DVD has a great extra where Mitchell is going around to stores in his old neighborhood, reintroducing himself to his community, and is dazzled by the action of spending money for the first time in five years. It is an activity some of take for granted, but the man who walked out of prison on April 3, 2004 is seemingly experiencing life for the first time.

This isn’t an innovative story because we’ve been there several times over – but co-directors Michael Skolnik and William O’Neill got more than they bargained for in Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell. They got Superman off the job for the last five years living in some messy apartment in Oakland, and a legend who didn’t fit the model for many reasons over – but a title people wouldn’t let go of regardless of the darkness he took his life into.

This is a great movie for motivation for Kicked Down Productions and Fader Films who can only go up with such a strong biopic which should have hoops fans and non-hoops fans alike discussing this film.

The final thing I was left with was the fact that Mitchell is only 35 years old today, and that his life has been on a journey that seemed to have lasted for hundreds of years. He is just 35, and has a lot of life to maybe become a legend all over again.