ESPN began airing “30 for 30″documentaries back in 2009 to give filmmakers a chance to delve deeper into some of the great sports stories of fall time. Many of the films were groundbreaking and gave viewers an inside perspective of some of the untold tales from the world of sports and often featured riveting storytelling.
There have been 60 films released as part of the series to date (and 13 under the “ESPN Films Presents” moniker). This list will focus singularly on the 60 “30 for 30” films that have been released as of 2015.
1. The Best That Never Was (2010)
The heart-rending tale of Marcus Dupree who one of the most heavily recruited athletes of his time. This film shows the pitfalls of major college football recruiting and how one of the great high school running backs in history was never able to live up to his potential through a series of unfortunate events. The ending of the film is absolutely heartbreaking as it shows an older Dupree tearing up while standing on the high school football field where he achieved such greatness.
2. Pony Excess (2010)
Director Thaddeus Matula’s hard-hitting look at the wild west which was Southwest Conference football during the 80’s. The SMU Mustang’s received the infamous college football “death penalty” after a series of recruiting violations and this film does a wonderful job of exploring the intricacies of the business side of college sports and the unfortunate consequences which changed a program’s destiny forever.
3. The U (2009)
It’s all about the U! This wildly entertaining film examines the rise of the Miami football program during the 1980s. Miami’s rise to prominence was not without controversy as the program developed a reputation as being rogue under coaches like Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson. This is a tale of cultural and racial revolution which engulfed a small, private school in Coral Gables, Florida.
4. Four Days in October (2010)
The unbelievable story of the 2004 Boston Red Sox and how they overcame a 3-0 series deficit in the ’04 ALCS by beating the New York Yankees. This film is superb storytelling at its finest and takes you deep into the heart of the emotional highs and lows of an entire city that was desperate to win a World Series and how a group of players slowly began to believe that doing so was possible.
5. Winning Time (2010)
A simple morality play that focuses on Reggie Miller and the Pacer’s attempting to slay the New York Knicks in the 1994 and 1995 NBA Playoffs. There was also the game-within-a-game as Knicks supporter Spike Lee and Reggie Miller seemed to be engaged in a psychological war that was as entertaining as the on court action.
6. Once Brothers (2010)
“Once Brothers” is a heart-wrenching story of two friends who grew up playing basketball together in Yugoslavia and eventually made it to the NBA. Unfortunately, a war-torn country effectively ended the friendship and an untimely death thwarted any chance of the two patching things up.
7. I Hate Christian Laettner (2015)
Why do so many people hate Christian Lattner? This film takes a look at why people despise the man to this day. Many believed he was born of privilege, but the film does a great job of dispelling a lot of myths about a man who is likely the greatest and most decorated college basketball in history.
8. Bad Boys (2014)
The rise of the controversial Detriot Piston “bad boys” in the late 80’s/early 90’s. A team that would be known for its hard-nosed and physical play led by star Isiah Thomas and enforcers Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer. In the midst of the Lakers and Celtics routinely trading off NBA Championships, the Pistons were able to leave a nice little scar on the basketball world, winning two titles and leaving an unforgettable impression.
9. You Don’t Know Bo (2013)
An enthralling look at one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the earth. This documentary takes a look at the career of Bo Jackson and re-lives some of his most memorable moments as both a professional football and baseball player and helps remind us all what a mythical figure Bo was during his heyday.
10. Brian and the Boz (2014)
Director Thaddeus Matula makes his second appearance on this list with his 2014 film about the rise and fall of Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth. This film does a tremendous job of showcasing Bosworth’s decent into becoming this character “the Boz” and how it set him at odds with his coaches and teammates at Oklahoma.
The Two Escobars
Run Ricky Run
The U Part 2
Survive and Advance