Power Ranking ESPN's Best "30 For 30" Documentaries

Ross ColemanAnalyst IDecember 12, 2010

Power Ranking ESPN's Best "30 For 30" Documentaries

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    Power Ranking ESPN's Best "30 For 30" Documentaries

    The ESPN "30 for 30" documentaries have been a groundbreaking series of films that have reminded all sports fans about some stories that many of us forgot or weren't alive for over the past 30 years.

    Tonight's airing of "Pony Excess" marks the end of the 30 films. So to commemorate, we will be ranking the other 29 films.

    What has been your favorite 30 for 30 film? Let us know.

    And don't miss "Pony Excess" chronicling the SMU football team that was given the NCAA Death Penalty in 1987. Check it out on ESPN tonight at 9 PM EST. 

29. Unmatched

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    "Unmatched" is a film about the rivalry and friendship between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

    This film didn't do it for me, not because it wasn't well done, but because woman's tennis isn't something that interests me all that much.

    Of all the films, this was at the top of the list that I could have missed and wouldn't have really been too worried about.

    Directed by: Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern, with Hannah Storm

    Aired: Sept. 14, 2010

28. Marion Jones: Press Pause

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    WHITE PLAINS, NY - OCTOBER 5:  Three-time Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones (C) enters a United States federal courthouse October 5, 2007 in White Plains, New York. Jones is expected to plead guilty to charges in connection with steroid use.  (Photo by H
    Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images

    "Marion Jones: Press Pause" is a film about the career of Marion Jones and her admission of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

    The reason I didn't really enjoy this film was because I felt like Marion Jones was not a story that I ever really cared about.

    Directed by: John Singleton

    Aired: Nov. 2, 2010

27. Tim Richmond: To The Limit

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    "Tim Richmond: To The Limit" is about the career of NASCAR driver Tim Richmond and his 1989 death from AIDS.

    Richmond was an interesting guy, but NASCAR and AIDS are two of my least favorite things on the planet so this one was difficult for me to watch.

    Directed by: NASCAR Media Group and Rory Karpf

    Aired: Oct. 19, 2010

26. The 16th Man

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    "The 16th Man" is about 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. South Africa President Nelson Mandela supported the South African National Team called the Springboks.

    Historically, the Springboks were supported by the white South Africans, Mandela's support went a long way to breaking down barriers in the racial hotbed of South Africa.

    The timing of this film in comparison with the feature film "Invictus" was just a little too much rugby for me.

    Directed by: Clifford Bestall, Lori McCreary, and Morgan Freeman

    Aired: May 4, 2010

25. The Band That Wouldn't Die

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    "The Band that Wouldn't Die" is a film about the old Baltimore Colts Marching Band. After the Colts moved to Indianapolis, the band stayed behind and helped promote the NFL's return to Baltimore.

    The fact that this story centered more around the things surrounding a sport and less about the actual sport makes this film fairly forgettable for me.

    Directed by: Barry Levinson

    Aired: Oct. 13, 2009

24. Into The Wind

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    "Into The Wind" is a film about Canadian Terry Fox. In 1980, after he had lost his leg to cancer, Fox attempted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. 

    This is another of the films that garnered very little interest for me. I understand it is an inspirational story, and ultimately sad because Fox died soon after his trek across the country.

    Just too many sad layers for me to really enjoy this one.

    Directed by: Steve Nash and Ezra Holland

    Aired: Sept. 28, 2010

23. Little Big Men

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    "Little Big Men" is about the 1982 Little League World Series in which the team from Kirkland, Wash., pulled off an unbelievable upset over a team from Chiayi City, Taiwan.

    The film tries to put parallels between the Little League team and the social problems in America during the time.

    I wasn't around during the time so I can neither confirm nor deny that the team from Kirkland gave the American people a release, but it sounds like a little bit of a stretch to me.

    Directed by: Al Szymanski

    Aired: Aug. 31, 2010

22. The Legend of Jimmy The Greek

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    "The Legend of Jimmy The Greek" chronicles the life and career of Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder as both a Vegas bookmaker and a member of the "NFL Today" broadcast team.

    The really interesting thing about this film was hearing about the fine line between betting on NFL football and discussing betting on NFL football.

    Overall a decent film, but more because of the dynamics of the "NFL Today" cast more than anything else.

    Directed by: Fritz Mitchell

    Aired: Nov. 10, 2009

21. One Night In Vegas

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    "One Night in Vegas" is one of the more interesting films in the series. It is about the relationship between Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur. Most notably, the night of Sept. 7, 1996, the night Shakur was murdered after attending a Tyson fight in Las Vegas.

    The reason this film wasn't rated higher for me is because it is a story that I was not aware of in 1996. Obviously I was a little younger, but it wasn't even on my radar.

    Directed by: Reggie Rock Bythewood

    Aired: Sept. 7, 2010

20. Muhammad and Larry

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    "Muhammad and Larry" is a film about their 1980 fight in what became Ali's only loss by anything other than a decision. Ali and Holmes were friends and former sparring partners.

    This film was fascinating because of the parallels I saw between Ali and some of the athletes today who have a hard time letting go.

    Directed by: Albert Maysles

    Aired: Oct. 27, 2010

19. Fernando Nation

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    "Fernando Nation" is a film about the start and build up of Fernandomania in Los Angeles in 1981.

    Fernando's arrival was before my time, but after living as a sports fan in Los Angeles for all of my life, Fernando is still a revered figure, especially amongst the Mexican community. 

    I enjoyed hearing about the history of the Los Angeles sports landscape at the time, but the film just wasn't quite enough for me.

    Directed by: Cruz Angeles

    Aired: Oct. 26, 2010

18. Once Brothers

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    "Once Brothers" is about the relationship between former Yugoslavian national teammates Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic. Divac, a Serbian, and Petrovic, a Croatian, found themselves on opposite sides of a civil war. 

    With their countries at war, the two men didn't speak a word to each other when their teams met on the NBA court. However, before they could reconcile, Petrovic died in a car crash in 1993.

    This film was great but for me it just didn't perk my interest as much as some of the others.

    Directed by: NBA Entertainment

    Aired: Oct. 12, 2010

17. Jordan Rides The Bus

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    "Jordan Rides The Bus" is a film about Michael Jordan's foray into baseball after the murder of his father. The film focuses on Jordan's motivation to retire from the game that made him famous.

    This story really fascinated me because it happened when I was really in my formative sports years.

    The thing that would have boosted the film's ranking for me would have been some revelation about Jordan's move to baseball. Was it suspension related? Seems like it wasn't, but if that had been uncovered, this might have been the best film of the series.

    Directed by: Ron Shelton

    Aired: Aug. 24, 2010

16. The Two Escobars

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    "The Two Escobars" chronicles the connections between Colombian soccer star Andres Escobar and Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Both men were central to the rise of the Colombian National soccer team. Andres was the best player on the team and Pablo was the pioneer of "Narco-soccer."

    Both men were murdered, Pablo in 1993, Andres in 1994 after scoring an own goal in the World Cup final.

    The only reason this film is this far down is because of the large amount of subtitles. It was a little bit of a chore to really follow along with each and every little aspect of the story.

    Directed by: Jeff and Michael Zimbalist

    Aired: June 22, 2010

15. Silly Little Game

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    "Silly Little Game" is a film about the start of Rotisserie baseball and the group that came up with the ideas that have led to the boom in fantasy in sports.

    The style and innovation made this one of my favorite films in the series. 

    Directed by: Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen

    Aired: April 20, 2010

14. Straight Outta LA

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    "Straight Outta LA" is about the Oakland Raiders' relationship with Los Angeles-based minorities, including many well known rappers.

    The most interesting thing that I saw with this film was how well the Raiders established themselves in Los Angeles and how that impact is still evident in the LA sports scene today.

    Directed by: Ice Cube

    Aired: May 11, 2010

13. Without Bias

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    "Without Bias" is the story of Len Bias, his rise to prominence, his selection in the draft 1986 NBA draft, and his untimely death two days after the draft to a cocaine-induced heart attack.

    This film really was an emotional one because of the impact of Bias' death on athletes' drug use. 

    Directed by: Kirk Fraser

    Aired: Nov. 3, 2009

12. Kings Ransom

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    "Kings Ransom" is about the 1988 trade that brought Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles in order to increase the popularity of hockey in Southern California.

    The film focuses on the effect of the trade on Gretzky, the fans of Edmonton, and Los Angeles.

    This film was a great kick start to the series and did a good job of setting the tone for all 30 films.

    Directed by: Peter Berg

    Aired: Oct. 6, 2009

11. No Crossover: The Trial Of Allen Iverson

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    "No Crossover: The Trial Of Allen Iverson" is about Iverson's role in a 1993 brawl that was sparked by racial comments and the subsequent trial that landed the top high school athlete in prison and divided his hometown across racial lines.

    The most striking thing from this film was the unbelievable athleticism that made Iverson such a sought-after athlete.

    Directed by: Steve James

    Aired: April 13, 2010

10. The Best That Never Was

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    "The Best That Never Was" is the story of Marcus Dupree. Once, touted as the best freshman in college football, Dupree failed to live up to the hype that made him one of the most highly recruited athletes of his time.

    The really striking thing about this film for me was the thought that there are probably a lot of Marcus Duprees out there that we never hear about for one reason or another.

    Directed by: Jonathan Hock

    Aired: Nov. 9, 2010

9. The Guru Of Go

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    "The Guru of Go" is another story that I remember from my youth where I only recalled a small portion of the story.

    The death of Hank Gathers and the tribute by Bo Kimble are iconic things, but the story of Paul Westhead's tenure at Loyola Marymount University are the things that I didn't recall.

    Directed by: Bill Couturie

    Aired: April 3, 2010

8. The House Of Steinbrenner

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    "The House of Steinbrenner" looks at the legacy of former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his effect on Yankees baseball.

    The amazing thing that I learned from this film was that Steinbrenner only invested $10 million into the team and turned them into possibly the most lucrative team in sports history.

    This film lucked out by Steinbrenner's death a few months ago. That might sound crass to say, but it is difficult to deny.

    Directed by: Barbara Koppel

    Aired: Sept. 21, 2010

7. The U

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    "The U" is about the rise of the University of Miami football team's rise to prominence during the late 80s and early 90s. 

    It was interesting for me to compare these Miami teams with the Miami teams of the 2000s and it really is no question that the Miami teams of the 80s and 90s were really the Raiders of college football.

    Directed by: Billy Corben

    Aired: Dec. 12, 2009

6. Four Days In October

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    "Four Days In October" chronicles the remarkable comeback by the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS over their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees.

    The most amazing thing about this film was the amount of home footage that the Red Sox players had. It provided another point of view for one of the most iconic series in sports history.

    Directed by: Major League Baseball Productions

    Aired: Oct. 5, 2010

5. Run Ricky Run

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    "Run Ricky Run" changed my perception of Ricky Williams. I, like countless others, thought Williams was a selfish athlete who would rather smoke pot than play for the Dolphins.

    However, after seeing this film, I now think that Ricky is one of the few athletes who understands what he is trying to accomplish.

    It isn't about sports, it isn't about fame, it is about mental health and being happy.

    Directed by: Sean Pamphilon and Royce Toni

    Aired: April 27, 2010

4. Winning Time: Reggie Miller Vs. The New York Knicks

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    "Winning Time: Reggie Miller Vs. The New York Knicks" is about the classic playoff battles between Reggie Miller and the Knicks.

    This film did a great job of reminding everyone of the 1995 playoff battle where Reggie made it his mission to kill the Knicks and to go after Knick super-fan Spike Lee personally.

    Directed by: Dan Klores

    Aired: March 14, 2010

3. The Birth Of Big Air

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    "The Birth Of Big Air" is about BMX legend Matt Hoffman and his quest to jump higher than anyone else ever has on his bike.

    The most amazing and almost disturbing thing about this film is the injuries that Hoffman dealt with in his career as a competitive BMX rider.

    Directed by: Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville, and Spike Jonze

    Aired: July 29, 2010

2. Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?

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    "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?" is about the rise and fall of the USFL. Director Mike Tollin made it his mission to discover why the USFL failed after a fairly strong start and who was responsible.

    This film was by far the most humorous of the films and it begged the question for me, why can't a spring football league work?

    Directed by: Mike Tollin

    Aired: Oct. 20, 2009

1. June 17, 1994

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    "June 17, 1994" is a groundbreaking documentary chronicling one of the strangest and most interesting days in history.

    All of the different pieces and parts of the day really made this documentary my favorite.

    I have watched it five separate times and every time I watch it, I am just astounded.

    Directed by: Brett Morgen

    Aired: June 16, 2010