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 Worst Episodes of 30 for 30

30 for 30 - S3E31

#1 - Qualified

5.29

Season 3 - Episode 31

For many, the name Janet Guthrie won’t ring a bell. It didn’t for me which added to the mystery of this 30 for 30 installment. This is one of the very few instances where I went in totally fresh, as in I didn’t watch the trailer, the name didn’t ring a bell, and I didn’t see any commercials, posters, or press materials. Given Guthrie’s career was short and ended nearly 40 years ago, I suspect her story will be new to many viewers like it was to me. Qualified chronicles Guthrie’s brief, but distinguished racing career, and centers around her efforts to qualify and finish the Indy 500. The film is greatly aided by — and leans considerably on — utilizing Guthrie to tell her own story, which she does in a very measured and stoic manner. What really makes Qualified pop is the extensive amount of vivid racetrack footage that gives the film a pretty immersive feel. For sports doc aficionados, this closely mirrors the excellence of Senna, which also is jam-packed with footage (which once again makes me wonder how and why such a stirring amount of footage was taken at the time). Both films are like a carton of cookie dough cream, in which you open it up and are delighted to find damn near two thirds of the container is cookie dough.

The episode was rated #1 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 7 votes.

30 for 30 - S2E3

#2 - There's No Place Like Home

6.64

Season 2 - Episode 3

On December 10, 2010, Sotheby’s auctioned off the most important historical document in sports history: James Naismith's original rules of basketball. There’s No Place Like Home is the story of one fan’s obsessive quest to win the artifact at auction and bring the rules "home" to Lawrence, Kansas, where Naismith coached and taught for more than 40 years.

The episode was rated #2 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 22 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E19

#3 - Little Big Men

6.68

Season 1 - Episode 19

On August 28, 1982, Cody Webster and a small group of schoolyard friends from Kirkland, Washington, 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, Pennsylvania, 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 filmmaker Al Szymanski will examine what became of a group of childhood teammates when the high point in their lives occurred before their lives had really begun.

The episode was rated #3 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 34 votes.

30 for 30 - S3E32

#4 - The Good, The Bad, The Hungry

6.72

Season 3 - Episode 32

A look at one of the biggest rivalries in sports, that of competitive eaters Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut.

The episode was rated #4 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 18 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E22

#5 - The House of Steinbrenner

6.74

Season 1 - Episode 22

Love them or hate them, the Yankees remain the most glorified team in American sports history. Led by the Babe, the Iron Horse, the Yankee Clipper and the Mick, they dominated baseball for more than four decades before the legendary franchise sagged under the ownership of CBS. Then in 1973, a 42-year-old shipbuilder named George Steinbrenner, a man now as iconic to his team as the pinstripes on its uniforms, headed a group that purchased the Yankees, and turned that investment into a billion-dollar business. Since 1923, the ‘House that Ruth Built’ has been the epicenter of the baseball world, and its team the biggest sports attraction in the Big Apple, inspiring generations of fans to maintain loyalties through good times and bad. But with a deteriorating facility and an eye towards 21st century style revenues, Steinbrenner was inspired to build an impressive new stadium. While the Yankees kept their Bronx address at 161st and River Avenue, the new ballpark marked the end of one grand era with the hope of launching another. Two time Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple will look at the New York Yankees as defined by George Steinbrenner’s enduring legacy, and will tell a story of how a $10-million dollar investment changed the face of not only a storied franchise, but an entire sport.

The episode was rated #5 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 34 votes.

#6 - Angry Sky: The Legend Of Nick Piantanida

6.83

Season 2 - Episode 30

At the height of the space race, Nick Piantanida had a dream and a reach that far exceeded his grasp: He would climb to the edge of the atmosphere and break the free-fall parachute record.

The episode was rated #6 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 18 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E11

#7 - Silly Little Game

6.89

Season 1 - Episode 11

Fantasy Sports is estimated to be a $4 billion dollar industry that boasts over 30 million participants and a league for almost every sport imaginable. But for all this success, the story of the game’s inception is little known. The modern fantasy leagues can be traced back to a group of writers and academics who met at La Rotisserie Francaise in New York City to form a baseball league of their own: The Rotisserie League. The game quickly grew in popularity, and with the growing use and attractiveness of the Internet, the “founding fathers” never foresaw how their creation would take off and ultimately leave them behind. Innovative filmmakers Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen will chronicle the early development and ultimate explosion of Rotisserie Baseball, and shine a light on its mostly unnoticed innovators.

The episode was rated #7 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 56 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E14

#8 - Straight Outta L.A.

7.00

Season 1 - Episode 14

In 1982, Raiders owner Al Davis beat the NFL in court and moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. With a squad as colorful as its owner, the Raiders captivated a large number of black and Hispanic fans in L.A. at a time when gang warfare, immigration and the real estate boom were rapidly changing the city. The L.A. Raiders morphed into a worldwide brand as the team’s colors, swagger and anti-establishment ethos became linked with the hip-hop scene that was permeating South Central Los Angeles. Rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube was not only witness to this evolution, he was also a part of it. As a member of the notorious rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant to a new generation and demographic. Still a die-hard Raiders fan, Cube will explore the unlikely marriage between the NFL’s rebel franchise and America’s glamour city and show how pro football’s outlaw team became the toast of La La Land.

The episode was rated #8 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 53 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E28

#9 - Marion Jones: Press Pause

7.00

Season 1 - Episode 28

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 '99 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. Calling herself a liar and a cheat in a federal courtroom, 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. Director John Singleton will focus on the rise, fall and re-birth of Marion Jones.

The episode was rated #9 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 36 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E21

#10 - Unmatched

7.06

Season 1 - Episode 21

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, filmmakers Nancy Stern and Lisa Lax, 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 episode was rated #10 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 34 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E4
#11 - Muhammad and Larry
7.07
Season 1 - Episode 4

In October of 1980 Muhammad Ali was preparing to fight for an unprecedented fourth heavyweight title against his friend and former sparring partner Larry Holmes. To say that the great Ali was in the twilight of his career would be generous; most of his admiring fans, friends and fight scribes considered his bravado delusional. What was left for him to prove? In the weeks of training before the fight, documentarians Albert and David Maysles took an intimate look at Ali trying to convince the world and perhaps himself, that he was still “The Greatest.” At the same time, they documented the mild-mannered and undervalued champion Holmes as he confidently prepared to put an end to the career of a man for whom he had an abiding and deep affection. In the raw moments after Ali’s humbling in this one-sided fight, it was not fully comprehended what the Maysles brothers had actually captured on film and, due to unexpected circumstances, the Maysles footage never received a public screening or airing. However, in the intervening years, the magnitude of this footage is now clear. An era ended when the braggadocio and confidence were stripped away in the ring, and the world’s greatest hero was revealed to be a man.

The episode was rated #1 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 72 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E6
#12 - The Legend of Jimmy the Greek
7.13
Season 1 - Episode 6

“The NFL Today” on CBS was one of the preeminent sports programs on television in the early 1980s. It was a perfect combination of reporting, analysis, predictions, humor and talent. But there was no personality on the show more popular than Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. Born in Steubenville, Ohio, to Greek immigrants, Jimmy overcame childhood tragedy, moved to Las Vegas, and eventually became the biggest name in the world of sports handicapping. When CBS added him as an “analyst” on “The NFL Today,” “The Greek” not only further increased his stature as a sort of national folk hero, but he also gained an air of respectability never before associated with gamblers.

The episode was rated #2 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 68 votes.

30 for 30 - S2E5
#13 - Ghosts of Ole Miss
7.14
Season 2 - Episode 5

In 1962, the University of Mississippi campus erupted in violence over integration and swelled with pride over an unbeaten football team. Mississippi native Wright Thompson explores the tumultuous events that continue to shape the state 50 years later.

The episode was rated #3 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 22 votes.

#14 - Lance (Part 1)
7.14
Season 3 - Episode 37

From acclaimed director Marina Zenovich, LANCE is a fascinating, revealing, comprehensive, chronicle of one of the most inspirational – and then infamous – athletes of all time. Based around extensive interviews and conversations with Lance Armstrong, the two-part, four-hour film tells the story of the cyclist’s rise out of Texas as a young superstar cyclist; his harrowing battle with testicular cancer; his recovery and emergence as a global icon with his seven consecutive Tour de France titles; and then his massive fall after he was exposed in one of the largest doping scandals in history. Armstrong, along with a collection of family, teammates, friends, rivals, and journalists, all reflect on his story, creating a fascinating character study, capturing a unique chapter of sports history, and insisting the audience make its own interpretations about the many different sides of a complex saga.

The episode was rated #4 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 21 votes.

30 for 30 - S3E40
#15 - Long Gone Summer
7.15
Season 3 - Episode 40

It was one of the most memorable and significant seasons in the history of baseball. In the summer of 1998, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa embarked on a chase of one of the game’s most hallowed records, igniting the passion and imagination of fans and non-fans everywhere. The drama, excitement, and results would be remembered for generations. If we only knew then just how complex our feelings about it all would eventually become.

The episode was rated #5 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 13 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E2
#16 - The Band That Wouldn't Die
7.16
Season 1 - Episode 2

In late March of 1984, a moving company secretly packed up the Baltimore Colts' belongings and its fleet of vans snuck off in the darkness of the early morning. Leaving a city of deeply devoted fans in shock and disbelief. What caused owner Robert Irsay to turn his back on a town that was as closely linked to its team as any in the NFL? Through the eyes of members of the Colts Marching Band illustrating how a fan base copes with losing the team that it loves.

The episode was rated #6 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 73 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E20
#17 - One Night in Vegas
7.17
Season 1 - Episode 20

On the evening of Sept. 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 episode was rated #7 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 59 votes.

#18 - Playing for the Mob
7.20
Season 2 - Episode 20

What happens when you combine "Goodfellas" with college basketball? You get "Playing For The Mob," the story of how mobster Henry Hill -- played by Ray Liotta in the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic -- helped orchestrate the fixing of Boston College basketball games in the 1978-79 season. The details of that point-shaving scandal are revealed for the first time on film through the testimony of the players, the federal investigators and the actual fixers, including Hill, who died shortly after he was interviewed. "Playing For The Mob" may be set in the seemingly golden world of college basketball, but like "Goodfellas," this is a tale of greed, betrayal and reckoning. Ultimately, they both share the same message: With that much money at stake, you can't trust anybody.

The episode was rated #8 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 45 votes.

#19 - The Day the Series Stopped
7.21
Season 2 - Episode 21

Soon after Al Michaels and Tim McCarver started the ABC telecast for Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, the ground began to shake beneath Candlestick Park. Even before that moment, this had promised to be a memorable matchup: the first in 33 years between teams from the same metropolitan area, a battle featuring larger-than-life characters and equally colorful fan bases. But after the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake rolled through, bringing death and destruction, the Bay Area pulled together, and baseball took a backseat. Through archival footage, previously untold stories from players, officials, San Francisco and Oakland citizens affected by the earthquake, and a scientific look back at what happened below the earth, "The Day The Series Stopped" will revisit that night 25 years ago. The record book shows that the A's swept the Giants, but that's become a footnote to the larger story of the 1989 World Series.

The episode was rated #9 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 42 votes.

30 for 30 - S1E18
#20 - Jordan Rides the Bus
7.25
Season 1 - Episode 18

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 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? 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, Alabama, for a young manager named Terry Francona.

The episode was rated #10 Worst episode of 30 for 30 from 60 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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