Starting in 2009, for ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, they commission 30 filmmakers to helm 30 documentaries featuring some of the most memorable and significant sports stories that happened during those 30 years. The series was called 30 for 30, and featured some of the best documentaries of 2009 and 2010. Among them were films that won emmy’s, were featured in film festival lineups across the country, and was overall one of the most critically acclaimed original productions ESPN ever created.
There isn’t a weak film in the set. Period. This set is a must own for any sports fan, and is an even more essential set for fans of documentaries. Sports documentaries are some of the greatest documentaries that can be made because sports stories are the closest real life gets to truly cinematic moments. Some of these are films that will make you laugh, most of them are films that will make you cry, but if you’re a sports fan, these are surely moments you’ll remember. You’ll even make some new memories from stories you’ll see for the first time.
Below are the official synopses of the final 15 films, in the order they were released on television. For the first part of this review, including a list of special features for each film, please go to our sister site ScreenInvasion.com
The Two Escobars
Directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist
Born in the same city in Colombia with the same last name, Andres Escobar and Pablo Escobar shared a fanatical childhood love for soccer. Andres grew up to become one of Colombia’s most beloved players, while Pablo rose through the ranks of the criminal underground to become not only the most notorious drug baron of all time, but also arguably the secret weapon responsible for Colombian soccer’s unprecedented rise to glory. Then, just when Colombia was expected to win the World Cup and transform its image on the international stage, the mysterious murder of Andres Escobar dashed the hopes of a nation. Fifteen years later, THE TWO ESCOBARS investigates the secret marriage of crime and sport, and uncovers the surprising connections between the murders of Andres and Pablo.
Birth of Big Air
Directed by Jeff Tremaine
In 1985, at the tender age of 13, Mat Hofmann entered into the BMX circuit as an amateur, and by 16 he had risen to the professional level. Throughout his storied career, Hoffmann has ignored conventional limitations, instead, focusing his efforts on the purity of the sport and the pursuit of “what’s next.” His motivations stem purely from his own ambitions, and even without endorsements, cameras, fame and fans, Hoffmann would still be working to push the boundaries of gravity. Academy Award nominee Spike Jonze and extreme sport fanatic Johnny Knoxville, along with director Jeff Tremaine, will showcase the inner workings and exploits of the man who gave birth to “Big Air.”
Jordan Rides the Bus
Directed by Ron Shelton
In the fall of 1993, in his prime and at the summit of the sports world, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and taking the Chicago Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his father. Was it the brutal loss of such an anchor in his life that caused the world’s most famous athlete to rekindle a childhood ambition by playing baseball? Or some feeling that he had nothing left to prove or conquer in basketball? Or something deeper and perhaps not yet understood? Academy Award-nominated director Ron Shelton, a former minor leaguer who brought his experiences to life in the classic movie Bull Durham, will revisit Jordan’s short career in the minor leagues and explore the motivations that drove the world’s most competitive athlete to play a new sport in the relative obscurity of Birmingham, Ala., for a young manager named Terry Francona.
Little Big Men
On August 28, 1982, Cody Webster and a small group of schoolyard friends from Kirkland, Wash., sat anxiously in a dugout waiting to take the field for the championship game of the Little League World Series. Their focus was just about what you’d expect from any 12-year-old: hit the ball, throw strikes, cross your fingers and then maybe – maybe – you’ll win. Adults in the stands and watching from home saw a much broader field of play. The memories of American hostages and a crippling oil crisis were still fresh; the economic malaise of the late 1970s still lingered; and the new President was recovering from an assassination attempt even while confronting new threats from the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, back on that tiny baseball field in Williamsport, Pa., where America’s game was celebrated each summer, no American team had won a true international Little League World Series Championship in more than a decade. When the Kirkland players rushed from their dugout that day, they stepped onto a much bigger field than the one they saw. What they did, how they did it, and what happened to each of the players in the years that followed is a multi-faceted story. Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Al Szymanski and Peter Franchella will examine what became of a group of childhood teammates when the high point in their athletic lives occurred before their lives had really begun.
One Night in Vegas
Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood
On the evening of September 7, 1996, Mike Tyson, the WBC heavyweight champion, attempted to take Bruce Seldon’s WBA title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. At this point in his career, Tyson’s fights had become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, where the ever present hype of the professional boxing scene would come face to face with the worlds of big business, Hollywood, and hip hop. Sitting ringside was controversial rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur and Tyson were friends; a feeling of kinship linked them as each rose to stardom from poverty only to be thrown in prison. Following Tyson’s victory, Shakur and “Iron Mike” were to celebrate at an after party, but the rap star never arrived. Shakur was brutally gunned down later that night, and the scene in Las Vegas quickly turned from would be celebratory revelry to ill fated and inopportune tragedy. Director Reggie Bythewood, with the full cooperation of Mike Tyson, will tell not only the story of that infamous night but of the remarkable friendship between Tyson and Tupac.
The first time Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova stepped onto a tennis court together, the world scarcely noticed. Only a few hundred spectators saw the pert 18-year-old beat the scrappy 16-year-old Czech in 1973. “I remember that she was fat,” Evert recalled. “She was very emotional on the court, whining if she didn’t feel she was playing well. But I remember thinking, if she loses weight, we’re all in trouble.” Said Navratilova, “My goal was for her to remember my name.” Eighty matches later – amid the extraordinary growth of women’s tennis – Evert not only remembered, but became a tried and true friend and confidante, remarkable considering the two appeared to be polar opposites in upbringing, life styles and personal relationships. Through a series of personal conversations between Evert and Navratilova, filmmakers Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters, along with producer Hannah Storm, will tell the story of one of the greatest one-on-one sports rivalries and capture these two extraordinary athletes’ views on tennis and an ever-changing world.
The House of Steinbrenner
Directed by Barbara Kopple
Love them or hate them, the Yankees remain the most successful team in American sports history. Behind George M. Steinbrenner, a man who at his passing in July 2010 has proven to be as iconic to the team as its pinstripes, the Yankees restored their storied sports stature with seven World Championships. Through all the ups and downs of his reign, “The Boss” managed to link the legends and legacy of Yankees past to Yankees present, and in so doing, assured the passage of older generations of Yankee fans to a younger generation that promises to carry forward well into the 21st century. An essential part of that accomplishment included the closing of the old Yankee Stadium and the construction of a new one, and the passing of ownership from George himself to his heirs, led by his younger son, Hal. Two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple documents this historic moment of transition for the team, the family and its fans, all of which was magnificently capped off with the Yankees’ 27th World Championship.
Into the Wind
In 1980, Terry Fox continued his fight against bone cancer with the pursuit of a singular, motivating vision: to run across Canada. Three years after having his right leg amputated six inches above the knee after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, Fox set out to cover more than a marathon’s distance each day until he reached the shores of Victoria, British Columbia. Anonymous at the start of his journey, Fox steadily captured the heart of a nation with his Marathon of Hope. However the 21-year old BC native’s goal was not fame, but to spread awareness and raise funds for cancer research. After 143 days and two-thirds of the way across Canada, with the eyes of a country watching, Fox’s journey came to an abrupt end when newly discovered tumors took over his body. Two-time NBA MVP, proud Canadian, and first-time filmmaker Steve Nash will share Fox’s incredible story of perseverance and hope.
Four Days in October
Major League Baseball Productions
When the night of October 6, 2004 came to a merciful end, the Curse of the Bambino was alive and well. The vaunted Yankee lineup, led by A-Rod, Jeter, and Sheffield, had just extended their ALCS lead to three games to none, pounding out 19 runs against their hated rivals. The next night, in Game 4, the Yankees took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, then turned the game over to Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher in postseason history, to secure yet another trip to the World Series. But after a walk and a hard-fought stolen base, the cold October winds of change began to blow. Over four consecutive days and nights, this unlikely group of Red Sox miraculously won four straight games to overcome the inevitability of their destiny. Using extensive archive coverage from that week, Major League Baseball Productions will produce a film in “real-time” that takes an in-depth look at the 96 hours that brought salvation to Red Sox Nation and made baseball history in the process.
Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac were two friends who grew up together sharing the common bond of basketball. Together, they lifted the Yugoslavian National team to unimaginable heights. After conquering Europe, they both went to America where they became the first two foreign players to attain NBA stardom. But with the fall of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991, Yugoslavia split up. A war broke out between Petrovic’s Croatia and Divac’s Serbia. Long buried ethnic tensions surfaced. And these two men, once blood brothers, were now on opposite sides of a deadly civil war. As Petrovic and Divac continued to face each other on the basketball courts of the NBA, only hatred passed between the two. Then, on the fateful night of June 7, 1993, Drazen Petrovic was killed in an auto accident. Once Brothers will tell the gripping tale of these two men, how circumstances beyond their control tore apart their friendship, and whether Divac has ever come to terms with the death of a friend before they had a chance to reconcile.
Tim Richmond: To the Limit
Directed by Rory Karpf
Natural. Rock star. Outsider. In the 1980s, race car driver Tim Richmond lived his life the way he raced cars – wide open. Born into a wealthy family, Richmond was the antithesis of the Southern, blue-collar, dirt-track racers who dominated NASCAR. He also was a flamboyant showman who basked in the attention of the media and fans – especially the attention of female admirers. Nevertheless, it was Richmond’s on-track performances that ended up drawing comparisons to racing legends. And in 1986, when he won seven NASCAR races and finished third in the Winston Cup series points race, some believed he was on the verge of stardom. But soon his freewheeling lifestyle caught up to him. He unexpectedly withdrew from the NASCAR racing circuit, reportedly suffering from double pneumonia. In reality, the diagnosis was much more dire: He had AIDS. Richmond returned to the track in 1987, but he was gone from the sport by the next year as his health deteriorated. He spent his final days as a recluse, dying on August 13, 1989, at the age of 34. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Rory Karpf will examine the life and tragic death of one of NASCAR’s shooting stars.
Directed By Cruz Angeles
“’The Natural’ is supposed to be a blue-eyed boy who teethed on a 36-ounce Louisville Slugger. He should run like the wind and throw boysenberries through brick. He should come from California.” – Steve Wulf, Sports Illustrated, 1981. So how was it that a pudgy 20-year-old, Mexican, left-handed pitcher from a remote village in the Sonoran desert, unable to speak a word of English, could sell out stadiums across America and become a rock star overnight? In Fernando Nation, Mexican-born and Los Angeles-raised director Cruz Angeles traces the history of a community that was torn apart when Dodger Stadium was built in Chavez Ravine and then revitalized by one of the most captivating pitching phenoms baseball has ever seen. Nicknamed “El Toro” by his fans, Fernando Valenzuela ignited a fire that spread from LA to New York—and beyond. He vaulted himself onto the prime time stage and proved with his signature look to the heavens and killer screwball that the American dream was not reserved for those born on U.S. soil. In this layered look at the myth and the man, Cruz Angeles recalls the euphoria around Fernando’s arrival and probes a phenomenon that transcended baseball for many Mexican-Americans. Fernando Valenzuela himself opens up to share his perspective on this very special time. Three decades later, “Fernandomania” lives.
Marion Jones: Press Pause
Directed by John Singleton
Few athletes in Olympic history have reached such heights and depths as Marion Jones. After starring at the University of North Carolina and winning gold at the 1997 and 1999 World Track and Field Championships, her rise to the top culminated at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. There, she captivated the world with her beauty, style and athletic dominance, sprinting and jumping to three gold medals and two bronze. Eventually, though, her accomplishments and her reputation would be tarnished. For years, Jones denied the increasing speculation that she used performance-enhancing drugs. But in October 2007, she finally admitted what so many had long suspected – that she had indeed used steroids. Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to federal investigators and soon saw her Olympic achievements disqualified. Now a free woman, Jones is running in a new direction in life and taking time to reflect. Oscar-nominated director John Singleton will focus on the evolution of Marion Jones.
The Best That Never Was
Directed by Jon Hock
In 1981, college athletic recruiting changed forever as a dozen big-time football programs sat waiting for the decision by a physically powerful and lightning-quick high school running back named Marcus Dupree. On his way to eclipsing Herschel Walker’s record for the most touchdowns in high school history, Dupree attracted recruiters from schools in every major conference to his hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. More than a decade removed from being a flashpoint in the civil-rights struggle, Philadelphia was once again thrust back into the national spotlight. Dupree took the attention in stride, and committed to Oklahoma. What followed, though, was a forgettable college career littered with conflict, injury and oversized expectations. Eight-time Emmy Award winner Jonathan Hock will examine why this star burned out so young and how he ultimately used football to redeem himself.
Directed by Thaddeus D. Matula
From 1981-1984, a small private school in Dallas owned the best record in college football. The Mustangs of Southern Methodist University (SMU) were riding high on the backs of the vaunted “Pony Express” backfield. But as the middle of the decade approached, the program was coming apart at the seams. Wins became the only thing that mattered as the University increasingly ceded power of the football program to the city’s oil barons and real estate tycoons and flagrant and frequent NCAA violations became the norm. On February 25, 1987, the school and the sport were rocked, as the NCAA meted out “the death penalty” on a college football program for the first and only time in its history. SMU would be without football for two years, and the fan base would be without an identity for 20 more until the Mustangs’ win in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl. This is the story of Dallas in the 1980’s and the greed, power, and corruption that spilled from the oil fields onto the football field and all the way to the Governor’s Mansion. Director Thaddeus D. Matula, a product of the SMU film school, chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of this once mighty team.
In addition to these and 15 other fantastic films, this set is chock full of special features.
Kings Ransom: Peter Berg Director’s Statement #1 (0:48), Peter Berg Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), and Deleted Scene: Telling Messier About the Trade (7:07).
The Band That Wouldn’t Die: Barry Levinson Director’s Statement #1 (0:48), Barry Levinson Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), 1984 Press Conference — Robert Irsay (5:57), and Baltimore Colts Fight Song (1:05).
Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?: Mike Tollin Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Mike Tollin Director’s Statement #2 (0:46), Bloopers (1:43), and Deleted Scenes: Pitty Reflects (Chuck Pitcock) (1:28), USFL Players in the NFL (2:26), Who Killed the USFL? (3:37), ESPN & the USFL (1:24), and Who is Donald Trump? (3:37).
Muhammad and Larry: Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan Director’s Statement #1 (0:48), Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan Director’s Statement #2 (0:46), and Extended Interviews: Ali the Performer (3:12), Ali’s Mind Games (1:22), Holmes’ TV Presence (1:31), Ali in the Gym (1:01), Holmes’ Childhood Memories (0:56), Holmes Attacked by His Brother (1:20), What Were They Thinking? (3:12), Betting on Ali (1:02), Holmes Left Ali in Africa (1:20), Ali was the Greatest (3:05), and Beating the Champ (0:52).
Without Bias: Kirk Fraser Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Kirk Fraser Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), Deleted Scene: The Early Years (6:22), and Extended Interviews: Michael Wilbon (1:23), James Brown (2:10), Lefty Driesell (1:16), and Bob Wagner (1:25).
The Legend of Jimmy the Greek: Fritz Mitchell Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Fritz Mitchell Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), and Extended Interviews: Irv Cross (2:38), Frank Deford (4:30), Hank Goldberg (2:23), Brent Musburger (2:24), Neal Pilson (8:05), Dan Rather (1:05), Anthony Snyder (3:29), and George Veras (1:58).
The U: Bill Corben Director’s Statement #1 (0:46), Bill Corben Director’s Statement #2 (0:46), and Deleted Scenes: Locker Rooms (0:57), Schnellenberger’s Pipe (1:06), QB Contest: Kosar vs. Testaverde (1:39), Joe Namath at 1984 Orange Bowl (1:08), Michael Irvin Fight in Cafeteria (1:31), and Locker Room Speech 1988 (0:39).
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks: Dan Klores Director’s Statement #1 (0:46), Dan Klores Director’s Statement #2 (0:46), Deleted Scene: Assassins (1:11), Deleted Scene: Larry Johnson’s 4-Point Play (0:43), and Interview Extras: Jeff Van Gundy (3:26), Larry Brown on Gamefaces (0:55), Larry Brown on Coaching Stars (3:01), Spike Lee (1:30), John Starks’ Struggles (1:37), and Fan Reactions (1:40).
Guru of Go: Bill Couturié Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Bill Couturié Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), and Extended Interviews: Paul Westhead (5:55), Tom Peabody (3:52), Bo Kimble (5:48), Derrick Gathers (3:30), Corey Gaines (3:58), and Diana Taurasi (1:04).
No Crossover: The Trail of Allen Iverson: Steve James Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Steve James Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), and Deleted Scenes: East End Community Center Discussion (1:24), Steve James Returns to a Crabbers Game (2:03), Ann Stephens — Cherry’s Act of Protest (1:08), and Fraternal Order of Police Discussion (1:05).
Silly Little Game: Adam Kurland & Lucas Jansen Director’s Statement #1 (0:47) and Adam Kurland & Lucas Jansen Director’s Statement #2 (0:46).
Run Ricky Run: Sean Pamphilon Director’s Statement #2 (0:47) and Sean Pamphilon Director’s Statement #2 (0:47).
The 16th Man: Clifford Bestall Director’s Statement #1 (0:46) and Clifford Bestall Director’s Statement #2 (0:46).
Straight Outta L.A.: Ice Cube Director’s Statement #1 (0:51), Ice Cube Director’s Statement #2 (0:46), Behind the Scenes: Ice Cube Interviews Al Davis (2:05), Behind the Scenes: Animator James Blagden (3:05), Deleted Scene: Snoop and Cube Enter the Coliseum (1:16), and Extended Interviews: Zev Yaroslavsky (3:36), Bill Plaschke (0:17), Steve Hartman (2:46), Ice T (2:24), and Marcus Allen (0:43).
June 17th, 1994: Brett Morgen Director’s Statement #1 (0:46) and Brett Morgen Director’s Statement #2 (0:46).
The Two Escobars: Michael & Jeff Zimbalist Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Michael & Jeff Zimbalist Director’s Statement #2 (0:46), Deleted Scene: Maturana’s Soldiers (4:49), Deleted Scene: Cartel Games (2:55), and The Other Side (17:12).
The Birth of Big Air: Jeff Tremaine Director’s Statement #1 (0:46); Jeff Tremaine Director’s Statement #2 (0:47); Matt Hoffman’s X Games Medal Winning Runs: BMX Vert Finals: 1995 (8:40), 1996 (10:46), 1997 (5:39), 2001 (5:34), and 2002 (6:48); and Tribeca Film Festival Premiere (1:39).
Jordan Rides the Bus: Ron Shelton Director’s Statement #1 (0:45), Ron Shelton Director’s Statement #2 (0:44), Ron Shelton at Barons Game (6:04), Extended Interview: Phil Jackson (5:08), and Extended Interview: Terry Francona (3:53).
Little Big Men: Al Szymanski Director’s Statement #1 (0:46), Al Szymanski Director’s Statement #2 (0:54), Deleted Scene: Cody Webster, Batting Instructor (0:35), and Additional Interviews: Don Cochran (0:38), Erik Jonson (0:24), Mark Peterson (0:17), and Bill Cook (1:12).
One Night in Vegas: Reggie Rock Bythewood Director’s Statement #1 (0:45), Reggie Rock Bythewood Director’s Statement #2 (0:54), Deleted Scene: Civil Rights to Hip Hop (3:50), Deleted Scene: Ali vs. Tyson (5:11), Tyson/Seldon Post-Fight Feature (4:42), Tyson/Seldon Pre-Fight Feature (3:15), and Tyson/Seldon Fight Preview (2:21).
Unmatched: Lisa Lax & Nancy Stern Winters Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Lisa Lax & Nancy Stern Winters Director’s Statement #2 (0:55), Additional Scene: Playing as a Child (0:44), Additional Scene: Muscles (2:10), Extended Interview: Chris Evert (2:46), Extended Interview: Martina Navratilova (7:40), and Production Stills Slide Show (2:21).
The House of Steinbrenner: Barbara Kopple Director’s Statement #1 (0:46), Barbara Kopple Director’s Statement #2 (0:54), Yankees Spring Training (3:39), and Extended Interviews: Ray Negron (5:43), Joe Torre (5:27), and George Steinbrenner (8:27).
Into the Wind: Steve Nash Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Steve Nash Director’s Statement #2 (0:55), Behind the Scenes with Steve Nash (2:39), Chasing the Van (3:01), Terry Fox Memorial Run (2:52), and Extended Interviews (8:02).
Four Days in October: Gary Waksman Director’s Statement (0:46); Deleted Scene: No More Yankeeography (1:14); Bill Simmons and Lenny Clarke: Boston After Game Six (1:09), Schilling’s Ankle (0:53), Are They Really Dead? (0:22), Should OCtober 20th Be a Holiday? (1:26), and Four Days of a Lifetime (0:26); As it Happened: Game Four Walkoff Home Run (1:19), and As it Happened: Last Out of ALCS (1:09).
Once Brothers: Vlade Divac Director’s Statement #1 (0:46), Vlade Divac Director’s Statement #2 (0:54), and Deleted Scenes: Soccer Story (0:59), Vlade and Zarko (1:19), Final Practice (0:47), and Vlade and Magic (1:56).
Tim Richmond: To the Limit: Rory Karpf Director’s Statement #1 (0:46), Rory Karpf Director’s Statement #2 (0:54), Deleted Scene: Dale Earnhardt (1:02), Deleted Scene: Miss Winston (1:34), 1981 Tim Richmond Feature (2:31), Tim and His Dad (0:34), 1985 Tim Richmond Interview (6:07), 1986 Tim Richmond and Darrell Waltrip Interview (4:13), and 1987 Tim Richmond Interview (4:41).
Fernando Nation: Cruz Angeles Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), Cruz Angeles Director’s Statement #2 (0:54), Cruz Angeles Director’s Statement (Spanish Version) (0:46), Extended Scene: Holdout (0:45), Extended Scene: Screwball (3:08), and Deleted Scenes: El Toro (1:50), Fernando’s Legacy (2:05), and Chicago (1:33).
Marion Jones: Press Pause: John Singleton Director’s Statement #1 (0:47), John Singleton Director’s Statement #2 (0:47), Deleted Scene: Basketball vs. Track (1:21), Extended Interview: Sylvia Hatchell (1:59), Extended Interview: Ron Rapoport (1:37), and Uncut: Marion’s Confession (4:12).
The Best That Never Was: Jonathan Hock Director’s Statement #1 (0:47) and Jonathan Hock Director’s Statement #2 (0:55).
Pony Excess: Thaddeus D. Matula Director’s Statement #1 (0:47) and Thaddeus D. Matula Director’s Statement #2 (0:56).
*blu-ray special features list courtesy of Blu-ray.com*
Oh yeah, and this set includes a cool hat. You know your dad loves hats.