8.5
203 votes
30 for 30

30 for 30

ESPN 2009

Inspired by ESPN's anniversary, ESPN Films is launching 30 FOR 30, an unprecedented documentary series featuring 30 of today's finest storytellers telling thirty remarkable stories from the ESPN era. On their own, each of the films will be an intimate look at a specific story, relevant to larger themes from the modern era. Collectively, these films will be a diverse mosaic of what sports has meant to American and World culture in the last thirty years. Each storyteller will bring their passion and personal point of view to their film detailing the issues, trends, athletes, teams, rivalries, games and events that transformed the sports landscape from 1979 to 2009.

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The 10 Best Episodes of 30 for 30

30 for 30 - S2E27

#1 - Of Miracles and Men

8.74

Season 2 - Episode 27

The story of one of the greatest upsets in sports history has been told. Or has it? On a Friday evening in Lake Placid, New York, a plucky band of American collegians stunned the vaunted Soviet national team, 4-3 in the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympic hockey competition. Americans couldn't help but believe in miracles that night, and when the members of Team USA won the gold medal two days later, they became a team for the ages. But there was another, unchronicled side to the "Miracle On Ice." The so-called bad guys from America's ideological adversary were in reality good men and outstanding players, forged into the Big Red Machine by the genius and passion of Anatoli Tarasov. There was a reason they seemed unbeatable, especially after routing the Americans in an exhibition the week before the Winter Games began. And there was a certain shame in them having to live the rest of their lives with the results of Feb. 22, 1980. In the 30 for 30 film "Of Miracles and Men," director Jonathan Hock ("The Best That Never Was" and "Survive and Advance") explores the scope of the "Miracle on Ice" through the Soviet lens. His intense focus on the game itself gives it renewed suspense and a fresh perspective. But the journey of the stunned Soviet team didn't begin -- or end -- in Lake Placid.

The episode was rated from 31 votes.

30 for 30 - S2E7

#2 - Survive and Advance

8.71

Season 2 - Episode 7

When the 1982-83 college basketball season began, Jim Valvano and his North Carolina State Wolfpack faced high expectations with equally high aspirations. But with ten losses for the season, the Wolfpack’s only hope of making the NCAA Tournament was to win the ACC Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic berth. Nine straight improbable tournament wins later over the likes of Sampson, Jordan, Olajuwon and Drexler, N.C. State had “survived and advanced” its way to a national championship. Director Jonathan Hock takes a poignant look through the eyes of senior captain Dereck Whittenburg at a dream fulfilled and explores what at times has been a tragic and heartbreaking aftermath in the 30 years since.

The episode was rated from 34 votes.

30 for 30 - S2E6

#3 - You Don't Know Bo

8.66

Season 2 - Episode 6

Bo Jackson hit 500 ft. home runs, ran over linebackers, and—for a short period—he was the best athlete we had ever seen. You Don’t Know Bo takes a closer look at the man and marketing campaign that shaped his legacy. More than 20 years later, myths and legends still surround the famously press shy athlete, and his impossible feats still capture our collective imagination.

The episode was rated from 85 votes.

#4 - Bad Boys

8.51

Season 2 - Episode 18

Few teams in professional sports history elicit such a wide range of emotions as the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early '90s. For some, the team was heroic -- made up of gritty, hard-nosed players who didn't back down from anyone. And for others, it was exactly that trait -- the willingness to do seemingly anything to win -- that made them the "Bad Boys," the team fans loved to hate. No drama is complete without compelling characters, and the Bad Boys Pistons had a full cast. Viewers will see the many factors that drove one of the best -- and most complex -- players in NBA history: Isiah Thomas, a lethal combination of sweetness on the outside and toughness within. In addition, the team was characterized by the toughness of Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn; the quiet intensity of Joe Dumars; the savvy and fearlessness of a young Dennis Rodman; the comic relief provided by John Salley; and the mixture of grit, professionalism and style possessed by coach Chuck Daly. Sandwiched between the Lakers' and Celtics' dominance of the 1980s and the Bulls' run in the 1990s, the Pistons' two titles in 1989 and '90 are often viewed as a transitional period in NBA history, rather than a dynamic championship era in its own right. But for anyone who experienced the Bad Boys in action, they more than carved out their own identity, both in the league and in American popular culture. Now, viewers will finally get the untold story behind one of the most unique championship teams in NBA history.

The episode was rated from 86 votes.

#5 - Tommy

8.49

Season 3 - Episode 23

It was a remarkable and compelling rise to the spotlight. But then came the stunning, confounding, and ultimately tragic fall. In the 30 for 30 film "Tommy," directors Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby explore the story of one-time heavyweight boxing champion Tommy Morrison in a tale that's unlike any other. Born into a troubled family in the American heartland, Morrison's initial emergence as a fighter was bolstered by a starring role in Rocky V. A few years later, he beat George Foreman for the WBO heavyweight title, and seemed primed for more stardom, even in the face of blown opportunities and upset losses. But then everything changed in early 1996, when he tested positive for HIV, forcing him into retirement. From there, Morrison's life spiraled further and further downward, plagued by drug problems, jail time, and most alarmingly and bizarrely, an eventual denial that he had the virus at all. There have been other boxers, and other sports stars, whose stories ended sadly. But rarely is the loss of potential as poignant as the case of Tommy Morrison.

The episode was rated from 72 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E25
#6 - Once Brothers
8.48
Season 1 - Episode 25

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 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, no words 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.

The episode was rated from 54 votes.
30 for 30 - S1E23
#7 - Into the Wind
8.48
Season 1 - Episode 23

In 1980, Terry Fox continued to fight bone cancer and deep despair in pursuit of a singular, motivating vision—to run across Canada. Three years after having his right leg amputated six inches above the knee, Fox set out to cover more than a marathon’s distance each day until he reached the shores of Victoria, British Columbia, spreading awareness and raising funds for cancer research. Anonymous at the start of his journey, Fox steadily captured the heart of a nation with his marathon of hope. 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.

The episode was rated from 25 votes.
#8 - The '85 Bears
8.41
Season 3 - Episode 6

A look back at the 1985 Chicago Bears, a team built on ferocious defense, with big personalities who shuffled to a Super Bowl title. Jim McMahon, Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Buddy Ryan and William Perry are among those appearing. Directed by Jason Hehir, with executive producers Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley.

The episode was rated from 86 votes.
#9 - What Carter Lost
8.32
Season 3 - Episode 21

There's high school football, and then there's Texas high school football. Oddly enough though, one of the greatest teams in state history has been lost to time... and fate. What Carter Lost, directed by Adam Hootnick for ESPN Films' 30 for 30 series, is the saga of that team, the 1988 Dallas Carter Cowboys. With 21 players who were offered college scholarships and several who went on to the NFL, Carter took on the best that Texas had to offer - including the Odessa Permian team that inspired Friday Night Lights - as well as the worst, in a racially charged state-wide dispute over one player's algebra grade and Carter's legitimacy. Somehow, Carter managed to win it all on the field, and somehow, they threw it all away. Perhaps it was the Dallas police officer and Carter fan who said it best after his actions ended a string of crimes that shocked the Carter faithful to their core: "Why would you do this?" Years later, it is a question that still has no easy answer, but through searing interviews with Carter players, coaches and family members, as well as glimpses of their lives today, this film is ultimately about what Carter found.

The episode was rated from 85 votes.
30 for 30 - S3E33
#10 - Rodman: For Better or Worse
8.31
Season 3 - Episode 33

The unfettered and definitive look at the life and career of Dennis Rodman.

The episode was rated from 13 votes.

Last updated: feb 06, 2021

Comments

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Best sports documentary series in my lifetime. Must see if you're into sports and docs. Even episodes I have no interest in the topic are entertaining. Good behind the scenes insight.

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