As a giant sports fan, watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries are just about the coolest way to get in-depth coverage of stories that are often forgotten about or completely unknown. And because we love seeing the new ones being released here lately, we’ve decided to look back on the made-for-TV docs and rank the five best. If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably understand just how difficult this was–because they are all so darn good.
5. Once Brothers
Everyone knew about the upbringings of the original Dream Team, with many of the stars familiar with each other from both college and the NBA. But that’s not the case with the Yugoslavian players, which featured plenty of stars who were just as admired in that country, yet were widely second-tier when compared to NBA stars. The film specifically followed the relationship between Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac, who were torn apart because of political reasons as Yugoslavia split apart, making viewers tear up quite a bit, I’d assume.
4. Pony Excess
In a world of money and fame, the story of the Southern Methodist football team in the ’80s pinpoints just how bad it once was, focusing on the illegal recruitment and payments made by boosters to get the top-tier stars. It even went as far as to showing how the Governor of the state of Texas was involved in the scheme, and how the greed eventually led to the rarest of punishments in college football–the death penalty.
3. June 17, 1994
It’s pretty incredible to think all the famous sports happenings that occurred on one single day in the summer of 1994, isn’t it? While there have probably been other days with impactful events, seeing how these came before the Internet and social media is even more insane, as news outlets were covering the O.J. Simpson car chase, golf legend Arnold Palmer’s final U.S. Open round, the opening of the World Cup, the victory parade for the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup win and the playing of the NBA Finals. It’s cool to see how the footage was consolidated and mixed together, rather than using a narrator to tell all that happened.
2. Fab Five
Growing up watching the University of Michigan’s stud freshman like Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose, this documentary hit close to home. Although it made the players seem a bit more cocky and brash–which all college athletes probably are who come in with such acclaim–it also showed just how much of an impact the team made on both society and the sport, inventing many of the traits we see with teams still to this day.
1. The Two Escobars
While everyone was focused on the U.S. in 1994 because it served as host of the World Cup, few people truly understood the turmoil that was going on in Columbia–which was ranked No. 2 in the world and actually in the Americans’ group. After a loss to the red, white and blue on an own goal by their captain, Andres Escobar, the country nearly rioted even more, as their was constant pressure and threats on the entire team. Seeing how intertwined the team was to famous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, is something that no one in the U.S. could have ever imagined, yet was shown beautifully here.