ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has produced some of the best sports documentaries ever.
The Two Escobars
Pablo Escobar, the richest and most powerful drug lord in the world, and Andres Escobar, the talented Colombian footballer, were not related, but their stories become fatally intertwined in this stunning documentary.
The Two Escobars explores how the rise and fall of Colombian football in the late-80s and early 90s was infused by the drug money swirling around the South American country. Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel made a fortune from murder and drug smuggling and had a vice-like grip on the country before they were brought down.
Andres Escobar was one of the stars of Colombia’s brilliant team, a side that were tipped for glory at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. After scoring an own goal at the tournament, Andres was murdered upon returning home.
The Two Escobars is a fascinating and powerful film which explores how sport, crime, culture and politics do not exist within a vacuum, and innocent people, such as Andres Escobar, become victims.
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10.
Straight Outta LA
Directed by Ice Cube, ‘Straight Outta LA’ documents the LA Raiders’ [formerly Oakland Raiders and now, the Las Vegas Raiders as of next season] time in Los Angeles between 1982-1994. The film documents the organisation’s presence in a city crying out for an NFL side at the time and the effects it ultimately had on the LA Hip Hop and the rise of Gangster Rap.
Ice Cube, among other hip hop artists and high profile figures, discuss the rise of gangster rap with particular credence given to the NWA while former stars such as Marcus Allen, Howie Long and long-time controversial Raiders owner, Al Davis, speak about the organisation’s time in the city, which saw them victorious at Super Bowl XVIII thanks to one of NFL’s most iconic touchdowns scored by running back, Allen.
The high profile nature of both the Raiders organisation and the NWA lends itself to one of the most compelling stories, both in the history of sport and music, given that both groups often found themselves on the wrong side of the law, rightly or wrongly.
IMDB Rating: 6.2/10.
The story of one of the most recognisable characters in the history of professional wrestling, Nature Boy tells the extraordinary tale of both Ric Flair, the in-ring persona, and Richard Fliehr, the man.
Flair transcended the industry while also being one of the greatest talents of all time in the ring, and ‘Nature Boy brilliantly documents how he battled separating his on-screen character with his personal life.
It details the highs and plethora of lows that Flair suffered throughout his life, with the range of interview subjects adding to the brilliance of the documentary. A unique and in-depth look at a true cultural icon.
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10.
OJ: Made in America
OJ Simpson, the former NFL running back with the Buffalo Bills, celebrity broadcaster and actor, was acquitted of the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman in 1995. He was convicted and imprisoned for a robbery in Las Vegas 13 years later.
The winner of an Oscar for best documentary, OJ: Made in America is a seven-and-half-hour mini-series that explores issues of race, fame and power in America through the prism of Simpson’s life, career and murder trial. It is engrossing and brilliantly paced with a darkly fascinating subject matter. A masterpiece in film-making.
IMDB Rating: 8.9/10.
You Don’t Know Bo
Before Michael Jordan, there was Bo Jackson, not many people are aware of that.
Recognised as one of the greatest athletes of all time, Bo Jackson was a two-sport phenomenon and is still the only player to be named an All-Star in both baseball and American football. Jackson was the supreme running back in the NFL while also one of the most devastating hitters in the MLB.
However, despite being drafted in 1987, Jackson’s NFL career was over by 1991 with his baseball career ending three years later due to a series of crippling injuries. He was actually the main athlete on Nike’s roster in his prime and was the face of a marketing campaign entitled “Bo Knows” which was designed to drive sales of the Nike Air Trainer I, the first of its kind. How it could have been all different.
This is Bo Jackon’s story and it is an amazing watch.
IMDB Rating: 8.2/10.
You can watch all of these documentaries on ESPN player, which you can access here.