The 6-foot-5 former St. John’s standout was a Dominican immigrant who migrated to the Bronx with his family in 1989. He became the best high school basketball player in America before graduating in 1994. He played at St. John’s – many would say for too long – before making the NCAA Tournament in 1998 and embarking on an NBA journey months after as a first-round draft pick.
That’s not what tempted Hock to make a new ESPN 30 for 30 chapter, The Dominican Dream, which premiers nationally on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
“If we could tell the story ofFelipe Lopez as an immigrant story, not as a basketball story, well now it’s a totally different thing,” he said. “Felipe is the model of the successful immigrant.”
Lopez, who now works as an NBA Cares Ambassador alongside Dikembe Mutombo and Bob Lanier, among others, adds that he is immensely honored to be featured in the film.
“I’m so grateful,” said Lope, at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the film premiered. “This film tells a story about my career, but I felt like telling the story was going to impact and educate people in so many different angles.”
There’s also Lopez’s upbringing in the Bronx, which in itself was an everyday battle to greater than any basketball game.
“People would line up just to get their drugs and I’m playing around that,” he recalled. “I’m playing and 50 feet from me people are buying smack, but that was just growing up in New York. So when you go to a basketball court, you’ve got a little more anger, a little more hunger, because you want to get out from that situation.”
Hock hopes the message is that success is not defined by fulfilling expectations others set out for you.
“This is Felipe’s story, and this is the story of the Dominicans and New York in the 80’s and 90’s, but this is your story, too,” Hock said. “This is every American story because we all came from somewhere else.”
Lopez adds that he’s incredibly thankful for the film.
“The story is something that I’m going to be able to tell my grandson, my grandkids, so on and so forth,” he said. “It’s a timeless piece. At the end of the day, this film has become part of my legacy that no one can take away or erase.”