There’s more to sports than just watching sports. For example, there’s reading about sports (like so), talking about sports, and learning about sports. For the latter, there are tons of documentaries out there sharing stories we’ve never heard before about the famous events that everyone knows. For basketball fans, there is no shortage of options when it comes to watching intriguing documentaries, which is why we wanted to share our picks for the best basketball documentaries ever made.
This movie should be required viewing for any young athlete. The same is true for anyone who’s too young to have seen Len Bias play. He was truly one of the great college players of his era and could have been a great NBA player as well.
This documentary is an important cautionary tale about actions and consequences and how quickly everything can be lost.
Requiem for the Big East
Technically, the Big East still exists. But the conference in its current state isn’t exactly the Big East of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. The story behind the rise of the conference, the parade of stars in the league, the intensity of the rivalries, and how the league met its unfortunate end in 2013 because of conference realignment is incredible to hear.
It’ll give any college basketball fan a greater appreciation of the history of the sport and just how impactful the Big East was in raising the profile of college basketball in general.
Few documentaries mix sports and politics better than Once Brothers. It’s also an incredible story about friendship and war. It focuses on Vlade Divac and Dražen Petrović, who played together on the Yugoslavia National Team, winning a silver medal together at the 1988 Olympics, before being caught on different sides of a war that ended their friendship.
The documentary has so many layers to it and is heartbreaking to watch as Divac opens up about living with regret after Petrović’s sudden death.
Even the word groundbreaking probably doesn’t do Hoop Dreams justice. It was so ahead of its time in terms of portraying the journey of two high school basketball players on their journey as young and talented athletes with high expectations and the weight of the world on their shoulders.
The stories of William Gates and Arthur Agee, neither of whom played in the NBA, may have focused on basketball, but it was impossible not to see how sports are inherently linked to race, education, social standing, economics, and so much more.
The Last Dance
The bar for basketball documentaries was undoubtedly raised with The Last Dance. We all knew that Michael Jordan led the Bulls to two separate three-peats, but this documentary miniseries gave us a look at everything we didn’t see.
Between the previously unseen footage and the insider stories, it felt like one bombshell after another was dropped. Everyone who’s seen it will be amazed at how deep into the story it goes and will have a greater appreciation for everything that happens with athletes behind the scenes.