Firstly, there are, arguably, more than three symbols in this film. Also, it is possible to regard multiple objects in a scene as a symbol. I offer the following three: basketball, Forrester's apartment, and the letter opener.
Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) is a black teenager who spends much of his...
free time playing basketball with his friends. He spends the rest of his free time writing in his journals. He hears rumors about William Forrester, a former writer who lives as a recluse in a building across from the basketball court. Jamal and his friends notice Forrester watching them from his window, but he is obscured from their view behind a curtain. Jamal and his friends one day plot to get into the apartment and steal an item. Jamal performs the deed and takes a letter opener, but he leaves his backpack behind. When he goes back to retrieve it, he finds that Forrester has corrected his journals. The letter opener works as a symbol because Jamal's theft initiates a correspondence between him and Forrester. To take it further, Jamal breaks into the apartment, entering Forrester's secluded world, in the same way in which a letter opener breaks open an envelope to reveal something private.
What is remarkable about Jamal is that he is both a gifted scholar and a gifted athlete. His particular talents are in literature and basketball. Both provide him with a scholarship into an elite Manhattan school, where he contends with a form of racism that seeks to exploit his athletic ability while negating his writing talent. Basketball is also the means through which Jamal remains connected to his community, which he never abandons in favor of his white peers. Jamal tries to bring Forrester in his world, for, Jamal spends so much time in Forrester's world, he takes the old writer to a basketball game at Madison Square Garden, but they quickly leave when Forrester experiences an anxiety attack, due to being out of his apartment for the first time in decades.
This leads to the third symbol: the apartment. William Forrester occupies the top-floor apartment of a building near the basketball court where Jamal plays with his friends. The apartment is the vantage point from which Forrester can view the world, hovering over it, god-like, but it is also a miniature kingdom in which he shuts himself. The apartment contains all of Forrester's memories—photos of his long-gone family and other mementos—of the time when he had a social life. Jamal discovers these things after Forrester dies and leaves Jamal the apartment. By giving Jamal the apartment, Forrester offers Jamal a private space in which he can write, which is key for a writer, and provides Jamal with his own world, in which he can feel safe enough to write without any concern over what others will think of him or his work.