(CBS Local)– During the early 1990s, there wasn’t a bigger name in the world of high school basketball than Felipe Lopez.
Lopez was called the next Michael Jordan and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated after becoming the number one high school basketball player in the country at Rice High School. Lopez was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and won a city championship his senior year at Rice.
The native of the Dominican Republic is having his story told in a new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary called “The Dominican Dream.”
“Honestly, I didn’t want to do the whole documentary,” said Lopez in an interview with CBS Local. “Jonathan Hock introduced it to me not as a basketball story, but more as an immigration story. I loved it because to me, it’s a topic that we are living. There are so many migrating families going through adversity coming into the country.”
While Lopez had the opportunity to go straight from high school to the NBA draft, he ended up playing four years at St. John’s University. Lopez will never forget the impact that head coach Fran Fraschilla had on him.
“Sometimes you need to refresh yourself in order to find different options,” said Lopez. “When he came in, he brought a little bit of different light to the team. We kind of needed it. Everyone felt like we had another shot and another opportunity.”
Lopez ended up going to the NCAA Tournament with Fraschilla in 1998 and lost in the first round. The former St. John’s guard ended up playing five seasons in the NBA before tearing his ACL twice. Although Lopez didn’t live up to the sky high hype, he knows he made an incredible impact for the people of the Dominican Republic.
“It wasn’t just me, I was just the product,” said Lopez. “The fans were coming on their own. I was being portrayed as someone from the Dominican Republic that was bringing something different. We needed it around that time. If you were not a baseball player, you were something else. It was a feel good story for many of us. Alex Rodriguez is in the documentary and his whole family was watching basketball because of a Dominican guy, it tells you how much of an impact it had.”
“The Dominican Dream” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival Friday night.