If there’s one thing we learned from The Last Dance, it’s that a sports documentary can be absolutely riveting and can capture almost anyone’s attention. A well-told story with a cast of memorable characters goes beyond the scoreboard and tells us about people. About life. About triumph, about tragedy, about everything in between.
If you enjoyed ESPN’s take on Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls, here are six other sports documentaries you’ll likely love as well. We tried to include a mix of sports as well as a mix of names you probably know with some you don’t.
But even if you’re not a fan, these films are worth your time.
Available on Netflix
On the surface, Hoop Dreams is a documentary about a couple of Chicago kids trying to make the NBA and follow in Michael Jordan’s footsteps. But once you dive in, it’s about so much more.
The movie follows six years in the lives of two young men named William and Arthur. It starts while they’re plucked off a poor community playground in the eighth grade by a suburban high school scout and closes in their first year of college. The twists and turns their tales take along the way though are what makes this so interesting
It was intended to be a 30 minute short, but the filmmakers found the story so riveting it became a more-than-full-length film clocking in at two hours and 55 minutes. But it packs more drama than a dozen traditional flicks during that time.
The History of the Seattle Mariners | Dorktown
Available on YouTube
The Last Dance follows dominance of the late 90s Chicago Bulls, this series shows, well… a different type of team.
The six part series, hosted by Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein, follows just how a baseball team landed in the Pacific Northwest far away from the rest of the league to how stars came and went through the years without even really coming close to a title.
You don’t get interviews with coaches and players, but you instead get a simple narration from a couple of baseball fans who truly know their stuff. And because of that, you get almost a more sincere look at things. Just like Jordan transcended Chicago, you don’t have to be a Seattle fan to enjoy this series.
Each episode covers a decade, and like almost anything baseball, it’s packed with stats and stories. And while this team never won a championship, The History of the Seattle Mariners makes the case that there are Mariners legends worth mentioning.
Available on Hulu
This documentary falls under one of those times that you’re perfectly content letting someone else participate as you sit back and watch. As the name implies, it follows free climber Alex Honnold as he tries to become the very first person to climb the 3,200 foot high El Capitan at Yosemite National Park free solo – without a rope or harness to ensure his safety. Quite literally, a single slip could mean death. The visual are absolutely dizzying, and you truly feel like Alex is risking his life for the venture. The New York Times calls the climb “one of the greatest athletic feats of any kind” and this documentary brings home just why that may be true.
Of Miracles and Men
Available on ESPN+
If you’re talking sports documentaries, you absolutely have to mention ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. As a Cubs fan, Catching Hell about how a fan’s world was flipped upside down for life by a stray foul ball almost got my recommendation, but I put fandom (and 2016 World Series Champs t-shirt) aside and chose this tale.
Every sports fan knows about the Miracle on Ice, but this film gives us the view from the other side – the Soviet side. The story of the absolutely astonishing ice hockey upset in the 1980 Olympics takes a look at not just how the CCCP developed a seemingly unbeatable juggernaut, but why sports were so important to the regime. It of course dive deep into the game as well, and the aftermath. If you’re interested in seeing the stories behind the villains, this is for you.
Told in his own, quiet words, Tyson follows the rise and fall of probably the most ferocious boxer to ever enter the ring. Everything is covered, from Tyson’s rapid ascent and incredible knockouts to his rape conviction and struggles with rage and fear. He’s probably one of the most controversial figures in sports, but one of the most interesting too. Like Michael Jordan, Tyson was near-untouchable in his prime and changed his sport forever.
Available on Netflix
For every winner like Michael Jordan, there has to be a loser, and this series on Netflix follows the stories of those people. No, not the opponents Jordan left in his wake, but the professional athletes who came up just short, who threw away promising careers, and who encountered devastating defeats. But all triumphed in the end.
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