The BEST Episodes of 30 for 30
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2020
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.
#1 - You Don't Know Bo
Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 8, 2012
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.
#2 - Of Miracles and Men
Season 2 - Episode 27 - Aired Feb 8, 2015
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.
#3 - Once Brothers
Season 1 - Episode 25 - Aired Oct 12, 2010
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.
#4 - Survive and Advance
Season 2 - Episode 7 - Aired Mar 17, 2013
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.
#5 - Tommy
Season 3 - Episode 23 - Aired Sep 20, 2017
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.
#6 - Fantastic Lies
Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Mar 12, 2016
On March 13th, 2006, the Duke University lacrosse team had a party. What happened there became a nightmare that changed lives, ruined careers, tarnished a school's reputation and even jeopardized the future of the sport at Duke.
#7 - Bad Boys
Season 2 - Episode 18 - Aired Apr 17, 2014
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.
#8 - The Price of Gold
Season 2 - Episode 16 - Aired Jan 16, 2014
The world couldn't keep its eyes off two athletes at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer - Nancy Kerrigan, the elegant brunette from the Northeast and Tonya Harding, the feisty blonde engulfed in scandal. Just weeks before the Olympics on Jan. 6, 1994 at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Kerrigan was stunningly clubbed on the right knee by an unknown assailant and left wailing, "Why, why, why?" As the bizarre "why" mystery unraveled, it was revealed that Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had plotted the attack with his misfit friends to literally eliminate Kerrigan from the competition. Now two decades later, "The Price of Gold" takes a fresh look through Harding's turbulent career and life at the spectacle that elevated the popularity of professional figure skating and has Harding still facing questions over what she knew and when she knew it.
#9 - This Magic Moment
Season 3 - Episode 8 - Aired Apr 14, 2016
A look at the Shaquille O'Neal-led Orlando Magic teams of the 1990s and how they fell short of an NBA title.
#10 - Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired Mar 14, 2010
Reggie Miller single-handedly crushed the hearts of Knick fans multiple times. But it was the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals that solidified Miller as Public Enemy #1 in New York City. With moments to go in Game 1, and facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 105-99, Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to give his Indiana Pacers an astonishing victory. This career-defining performance, combined with his give-and-take with Knicks fan Spike Lee, made Miller and the Knicks a highlight of the 1995 NBA playoffs. Peabody Award-winning director Dan Klores will explore how Miller proudly built his legend as “The Garden’s Greatest Villain”.
#11 - Into the Wind
Season 1 - Episode 23 - Aired Sep 28, 2010
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.
#12 - The '85 Bears
Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired Feb 4, 2016
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.
#13 - The Gospel According to Mac
Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 3, 2015
Examines Bill McCartney and his sometimes-controversial mixture of football and evangelicalism as Colorado Buffaloes head coach in the 1990s, including a national championship.
#14 - Believeland
Season 3 - Episode 9 - Aired May 14, 2016
The film shares with viewers some of the highs, lows and most unforgettable moments in Cleveland sports history over the past 50 years. Believeland includes interviews from celebrities, public figures and former athletes with connections to the city.
#15 - One and Not Done
Season 3 - Episode 15 - Aired Apr 13, 2017
Who is John Calipari? To his devotees, he is one of college basketball's greatest coaches. To his detractors, he represents everything wrong with college sports. Somewhere in between lies one of the most compelling and complicated figures in American sports. "One and Not Done" chronicles the life of Calipari - from high school point guard, to dominating UMass coach, to king of Kentucky. A man who has not only altered the college basketball landscape and become the face of the so-called "One and Done" phenomenon, but has also had two Final Four appearances vacated and evolved as a coach who at one point had to rebuild his career.
#16 - Deion's Double Play
Season 3 - Episode 29 - Aired Jan 31, 2019
A look at Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, focusing especially on a 24-hour span in 1992 when he sandwiched an NFL game between a pair of Major League Baseball postseason games in cities separated by 1,000 miles.
#17 - What Carter Lost
Season 3 - Episode 21 - Aired Aug 24, 2017
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.
#18 - Year of the Scab
Season 3 - Episode 22 - Aired Sep 12, 2017
Two weeks into the 1987 season, the NFL's players went on strike. For the first time in the history of professional sports in the United States, replacement players would take the field. "No Names", "Has Beens", and "Never-Would- Be's" were plucked from obscurity for one last chance at football immortality. What they didn't know was that their golden tickets would become scarlet letters. As the strike fanned fires across the country, no one felt the heat more than the 1500 replacement players, who were caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike.
#19 - Guru of Go
Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Apr 3, 2010
By the mid-1980s Paul Westhead had worn out his welcome in the NBA. The best offer he could find came from an obscure small college with little history of basketball. In the same city where he had won an NBA championship with Magic and Kareem, Westhead was determined to perfect his non-stop run-and-gun offensive system at Loyola Marymount. His shoot-first offense appeared doomed to fail until Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, two talented players from Westhead’s hometown of Philadelphia, arrived gift-wrapped at his doorstep. With Gathers and Kimble leading a record scoring charge, Westhead’s system suddenly dazzled the world of college basketball and turned conventional thinking on its head. But then, early in the 1989-90 season, Gathers collapsed during a game and was diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat. Determined to play, Gathers returned three games later, but less than three months later, he tragically died on the court.
#20 - Free Spirits
Season 2 - Episode 10 - Aired Oct 8, 2013
When the American Basketball Association disbanded in 1976, four ABA franchises joined the NBA -- the Nets, Nuggets, Pacers and Spurs. But one of the odd teams out found a different way to secure its future. "Free Spirits" tells the colorful story of the Spirits of St. Louis -- an entertaining and at times controversial team featuring stars like Marvin "Bad News" Barnes and James "Fly" Williams with an upstart sportscaster named Bob Costas calling the play-by-play. The Spirits managed to pull off a stunning playoff upset of the defending champions in their first season, and on their way to franchise extinction, co-owners Daniel and Ozzie Silna managed to negotiate a contract that has allowed the team to continue to exist in the most unusual fashion.
#21 - This Was the XFL
Season 3 - Episode 14 - Aired Feb 2, 2017
A bold challenge, a fearless experiment and ultimately, a spectacular failure. In 2001, sports entertainment titans Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon used the marketing behemoths of their respective companies -- NBC and WWE -- and launched the XFL.
#22 - I Hate Christian Laettner
Season 2 - Episode 28 - Aired Mar 15, 2015
Christian Laettner helped Duke win two national titles in four straight trips to the Final Four. He had looks, smarts and game. So why has he been intensely disliked by so many for so long?
#23 - The U
Season 1 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 12, 2009
Throughout the 1980s, Miami, Florida, was at the center of a racial and cultural shift taking place throughout the country. Overwhelmed by riots and tensions, Miami was a city in flux, and the University of Miami football team served as a microcosm for this evolution. The image of the predominantly white university was forever changed when coach Howard Schnellenberger scoured some of the toughest ghettos in Florida to recruit mostly black players for his team. With a newly branded swagger, inspired and fueled by the quickly growing local Miami hip hop culture, these Hurricanes took on larger-than-life personalities and won four national titles between 1983 and 1991. Filmmaker Billy Corben, a Miami native and University of Miami alum, will tell the story of how these “Bad Boys” of football changed the attitude of the game they played, and how this serene campus was transformed into “The U.”
#24 - Without Bias
Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Nov 3, 2009
More than two decades after his tragic cocaine overdose, the late Len Bias still leaves more questions than answers. When Bias dropped dead two days after the 1986 NBA Draft, he forever altered our perception of casual drug use and became the tipping point of America's drug crisis in the mid-80's. Future generations continue to face the harsh punishment of drug policies that were influenced by the public outcry after his heartbreaking death. Instead of becoming an NBA star, he became a one-man deterrent, the athlete who reminded everyone just how dangerous drug use can be. Amazingly, questions still linger about his death nearly a quarter-century later. How good could he have been in the pro ranks? Has he become underrated or overrated as the years pass? How could a University of Maryland superstar and Boston Celtics lottery pick be derailed by a cocaine binge? Was Bias a one-time user as we were led to believe, or was there a pattern of recreational use that led to his fatal last night? Did he fall in with the wrong crowd? In the most ambitious, comprehensive and uncompromising account of Bias’ life and death ever captured on film, up-and-coming director Kirk Fraser utilizes dozens of interviews with Bias’ closest teammates, friends and family in an effort to determine exactly what happened on that fateful night. Maybe it wasn't as much of a fluke as we thought.
#25 - Slaying the Badger
Season 2 - Episode 19 - Aired Jul 22, 2014
Before Lance Armstrong, there was Greg LeMond, who is now the first and only American to win the Tour de France. In this engrossing documentary, LeMond looks back at the pivotal 1986 Tour, and his increasingly vicious rivalry with friend, teammate and mentor Bernard Hinault. The reigning Tour champion and brutal competitor known as "The Badger," Hinault "promised" to help LeMond to his first victory, in return for LeMond supporting him in the previous year. But in a sport that purports to reward teamwork, it's really every man for himself.