ESPN Films 30 for 30 Summaries
Birth of Big Air | Charismatic | Guru of Go | Into The Wind
Jordan Rides the Bus | June 17, 1994 | Kings Ransom | Marion Jones: Press Pause
Muhammad and Larry | No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson | One Night in Vegas | Right to Play
Run Ricky Run | Silly Little Game | Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? | Steve Bartman: Catching Hell
Straight Outta L.A. | The 16th Man | The Band That Wouldn’t Die | The Best That Never Was
The House That George Built | The Legend of Jimmy The Greek | The Two Escobars | The U
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks | Without Bias
Directed by Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and Jef Tremaine
Produced by Asylum Entertainment
Directed by Bill Couturie
Summary: 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. Working with both Westhead and Kimble, Oscar-winning director Bill Couturié will tell a fast-paced and emotionally moving story of innovation, triumph and tragedy.
Directed by Steve Nash
Summary: 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.
Directed by Ron Shelton
Summary: In the fall of 1993, in his prime and at the summit of the sports world, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and taking the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his father. Was it the brutal loss of such an anchor in his life that caused the world’s most famous athlete to rekindle a childhood ambition by playing baseball? Or some feeling that he had nothing left to prove or conquer in basketball? Or something deeper and perhaps not yet understood? Ron Shelton, a former minor leaguer who brought his experiences to life in the classic movie “Bull Durham,” will revisit Jordan’s short career in the minor leagues and explore the motivations that drove the world’s most competitive athlete to play a new sport in the relative obscurity of Birmingham, Alabama, for a young manager named Terry Francona.
Directed by Brett Morgen
Summary: Do you remember where you were on June 17, 1994? Thanks to a wide array of unrelated, coast-to-coast occurrences, this Friday has come to be known for its firsts, lasts, triumphs and tragedy. Arnold Palmer played his last round at a U.S. Open, in Oakmont, Pa., the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Chicago, the Rangers celebrated on Broadway, Patrick Ewing desperately pursued a long evasive championship in the Garden and Donald Fehr stared down the baseball owners. And yet, all of that was a prelude to O.J. Simpson leading America on a slow speed chase in a white Ford Bronco around Los Angeles. Oscar-nominated and Peabody Award-winning director Brett Morgen will artistically weave these moments and others to create a unique and reflective look at a day that no sports fan could forget.
Directed by Peter Berg
Summary: On August 9, 1988, the NHL was forever changed with the single stroke of a pen. The Edmonton Oilers, fresh off their fourth Stanley Cup victory in five years, signed a deal that sent Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian national treasure and the greatest hockey player ever to play the game, to the Los Angeles Kings in a multi-player, multi-million dollar deal. As bewildered Oiler fans struggled to make sense of the unthinkable, fans in Los Angeles were rushing to purchase season tickets at a rate so fast it overwhelmed the Kings box office. Overnight, a franchise largely overlooked in its 21-year existence was suddenly playing to sellout crowds and standing ovations, and a league often relegated to “little brother” status exploded from 21 teams to 30 in less than a decade. Acclaimed director Peter Berg presents the captivating story of the trade that knocked the wind out of an entire country, and placed a star-studded city right at the humble feet of a 27-year-old kid, known simply as “The Great One.”
Directed by John Singleton
Summary: Few athletes in Olympic history have reached such heights and depths as Marion Jones. After starring at the University of North Carolina and winning gold at the 1997 and ’99 World Track and Field Championships, her rise to the top culminated at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. There she captivated the world with her beauty, style and athletic dominance, sprinting and jumping to three gold medals and two bronze. Eventually, though, her accomplishments and her reputation would be tarnished. For years, Jones denied the increasing speculation that she used performance-enhancing drugs. But in October 2007, she finally admitted what so many had long suspected — that she had indeed used steroids. Calling herself a liar and a cheat in a federal courtroom, Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to federal investigators and soon saw her Olympic achievements disqualified. Now a free woman, Jones is running in a new direction in life and taking time to reflect. Director John Singleton will focus on the rise, fall and re-birth of Marion Jones.
Directed by Albert Maysles
Summary: In October of 1980 Muhammad Ali was preparing to fight for an unprecedented fourth heavyweight title against his friend and former sparring partner Larry Holmes. To say that the great Ali was in the twilight of his career would be generous; most of his admiring fans, friends and fight scribes considered his bravado delusional. What was left for him to prove? In the weeks of training before the fight, documentarians Albert and David Maysles took an intimate look at Ali trying to convince the world and perhaps himself, that he was still “The Greatest.” At the same time, they documented the mild-mannered and undervalued champion Holmes as he confidently prepared to put an end to the career of a man for whom he had an abiding and deep affection. In the raw moments after Ali’s humbling in this one-sided fight, it was not fully comprehended what the Maysles brothers had actually captured on film and, due to unexpected circumstances, the Maysles footage never received a public screening or airing. However, in the intervening years, the magnitude of this footage is now clear. An era ended when the braggadocio and confidence were stripped away in the ring, and the world’s greatest hero was revealed to be a man. Here for the first time is the unseen filmed build up to that fight, accompanied by freshly shot interviews by Albert Maysles with members from both the Ali and Holmes camps, as well as others who were prime witnesses to this poignant foolhardy attempt at courage.
Directed by Steve James
Summary: On Valentine’s Day 1993, 17-year-old Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson was bowling in Hampton, Va., with five high school friends. It was supposed to be an ordinary evening, but it became a night that defined Iverson’s young life. A quarrel soon erupted into a brawl pitting Iverson’s young black friends against a group of white patrons. The fallout from the fight and the handling of the subsequent trial landed the teenager—considered by some the nation’s best high school athlete—in jail and sharply divided the city along racial lines. Oscar nominee Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) returns to his hometown of Hampton, where he once played basketball, to take a personal look at this still-disputed incident and examine its impact on Iverson and the shared community.
Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood
Summary: On the evening of Sept. 7, 1996, Mike Tyson, the WBC heavyweight champion, attempted to take Bruce Seldon’s WBA title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. At this point in his career, Tyson’s fights had become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, where the ever present hype of the professional boxing scene would come face to face with the worlds of big business, Hollywood, and hip hop. Sitting ringside was controversial rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur and Tyson were friends, a feeling of kinship linked them as each rose to stardom from poverty only to be thrown in prison. Following Tyson’s victory, Shakur and “Iron Mike” were to celebrate at an after party, but the rap star never arrived. Shakur was brutally gunned down later that night, and the scene in Las Vegas quickly turned from would-be celebratory revelry to ill fated and inopportune tragedy. Director Reggie Bythewood, with the full cooperation of Mike Tyson, will tell not only the story of that infamous night but of the remarkable friendship between Tyson and Tupac.
Directed by Frank Marshall
Summary: He has won four Olympic gold medals, graced the cover of Time magazine and been honored as Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Yet if you say the name Johann Olav Koss in this country, you’ll usually be met with a casual shrug. “Oh yeah, speed skater . . . Norwegian . . . what’s he doing now?” Instead of cashing in on his Olympic haul, Koss embarked on a remarkable journey that has established him as one of the world’s greatest ambassadors of sports. As the founder, President and CEO of Right To Play, Koss and his army of volunteers, teachers, coaches and diplomats have used the power of athletics to elevate the lives of the world’s neediest children. As it turns out, Frank Marshall, one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed producers and a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, witnessed Koss’s triumphs on the ice in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games. Now Marshall will reveal the epiphany that led Koss to start Right To Play, and attempt to uncover the motivation that drives him to crisscross the globe, establishing new programs and literally saving lives in the process. Some day, Johann may win a Nobel Peace Prize. But for now, this film will serve as an introduction to an uncommon and selfless man who embodies the power and glory of sport.
Directed by Sean Pamphilon and Royce Toni
Summary: Ricky Williams does not conform to America’s definition of the modern athlete. In 2004, with rumors of another positive marijuana test looming, the Miami Dolphins running back traded adulation and a mansion in South Florida for anonymity and a $7 a night tent in Australia. His decision created a media frenzy that dismantled his reputation and branded him as a quitter. But while most in the media thought Williams was ruining his life by leaving football, Ricky thought he was saving it. Through personal footage recorded with Williams during his year away from football and beyond, filmmaker and traveling companion Sean Pamphilon will give this misunderstood athlete the opportunity to tell his intriguing story in his own words.
Directed by Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen
Summary: Fantasy Sports is estimated to be a $4 billion dollar industry that boasts over 30 million participants and a league for almost every sport imaginable. But for all this success, the story of the game’s inception is little known. The modern fantasy leagues can be traced back to a group of writers and academics who met at La Rotisserie Francaise in New York City to form a baseball league of their own: The Rotisserie League. The game quickly grew in popularity, and with the growing use and attractiveness of the Internet, the “founding fathers” never foresaw how their creation would take off and ultimately leave them behind. Innovative filmmakers Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen will chronicle the early development and ultimate explosion of Rotisserie Baseball, and shine a light on its mostly unnoticed innovators.
Directed by Mike Tollin
Summary: In 1983 the upstart United States Football League (USFL) had the audacity to challenge the almighty NFL. The new league did the unthinkable by playing in the spring and plucked three straight Heisman Trophy winners away from the NFL. The 12-team USFL played before crowds that averaged 25,000, and started off with respectable TV ratings. But with success came expansion and new owners, including a certain high profile and impatient real estate baron whose vision was at odds with the league’s founders. Soon, the USFL was reduced to waging a desperate anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, which yielded an ironic verdict that effectively forced the league out of business. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, Academy Award-nominated and Peabody Award-winning director Mike Tollin, himself once a USFL employee, will showcase the remarkable influence of those three years on football history and attempt to answer the question, “Who Killed the USFL?”
16. Steve Bartman: Catching Hell
Directed by Academy Award Winner Alex Gibney
Summary: With five outs remaining in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, a foul ball descended from the cold Chicago sky, destined for the glove of left fielder Moises Alou. But it was not meant to be, as one inconspicuous hand reached down from the left field stands at Wrigley Field and seized the potential out. That hand belonged to Cubs fan Steve Bartman, and many believed that he snatched away Chicago’s chance of advancing to the World Series. Even though Bartman was one of many who reached for the ball, and even though Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez let a sure inning-ending double-play ball go through his legs later in the same inning, and combined with the fact that the Game 6 victory by the Marlins only tied the series at 3-3, Bartman still became the most hated man in Chicago. Bartman attempted a public appeal, but his fate was already sealed by the Cub fans’ need for a scapegoat to explain a near-century of losing. Although Cubs Nation has since moved on to other seasons and other losses, Bartman remains ostracized from a community he lives in and a team he once loved. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney will explore this relationship and try to answer the question, Can Steve Bartman ever forgive Chicago?
Directed by Ice Cube
Summary: In 1982 Raiders owner Al Davis beat the NFL in court and moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. With a squad as colorful as its owner, the Raiders captivated a large number of black and Hispanic fans in L.A. at a time when gang warfare, immigration and the real estate boom were rapidly changing the city. The L.A. Raiders morphed into a worldwide brand as the team’s colors, swagger and anti-establishment ethos became linked with the hip-hop scene that was permeating South Central Los Angeles. Rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube was not only witness to this evolution, he was also a part of it. As a member of the notorious rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant to a new generation and demographic. Still a die-hard Raiders fan, Cube will explore the unlikely marriage between the NFL’s rebel franchise and America’s glamour city and show how pro football’s outlaw team became the toast of La La Land.
Directed by Morgan Freeman
Summary: Rugby has long been viewed in South Africa as a game for the white population, and the country’s success in the sport has been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the 50-year-old policies and entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Though they had only one non-white player, the South African Springboks gained supporters of all colors as they made an improbable run into the final match where they beat the heavily favored New Zealand team. When Mandela himself marched to the center of the pitch cloaked in a Springbok jersey and shook hands with the captain of the South African team, two nations became one. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and director Cliff Bestall will tell the emotional story of that cornerstone moment and what it meant to South Africa’s healing process.
Directed by Barry Levinson
Summary: In late March of 1984, a moving company secretly packed up the Baltimore Colts’ belongings and its fleet of vans snuck off in the darkness of the early morning. Leaving a city of deeply devoted fans in shock and disbelief. What caused owner Robert Irsay to turn his back on a town that was as closely linked to its team as any in the NFL? Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barry Levinson (“Diner”, “The Natural”), himself a long-standing Baltimore Colts fanatic, will probe that question in light of the changing relationship of sports to community. Through the eyes of members of the Colts Marching Band, Levinson will illustrate how a fan base copes with losing the team that it loves.
Directed by Jon Hock
Summary: In 1981, college athletic recruiting changed forever as a dozen big-time football programs sat waiting for the decision by a physically powerful and lightning-quick high school running back named Marcus Dupree. Having already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, Dupree attracted recruiters from schools in every major conference to his hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. More than a decade removed from being a flashpoint in the civil-rights struggle, Philadelphia was once again thrust back into the national spotlight. Dupree took the attention in stride, and committed to Oklahoma. What followed, though, was a forgettable college career littered with conflict, injury and oversized expectations. Eight-time Emmy Award winner Jon Hock will examine why this star burned out so young and how he ultimately used football to redeem himself.
Directed by Barbara Kopple
Summary: Love him or hate him, there is no denying that George Steinbrenner has been one of the most colorful and successful owners in contemporary sports. Heading up a group that bought the New York Yankees in 1973 for $10 million, “King George” emphatically branded the world’s most celebrated sports franchise as his own. The Boss has boasted 10 pennants, 6 World Series trophies and a corporate net worth more than $1 billion. But for all the glory and riches, the Steinbrenner legacy is also mixed with wasteful and embarrassing spending and countless episodes of tabloid-style soap. Now with George’s health seriously failing, the Steinbrenner heirs are finally beginning to emerge from their father’s larger-than-life shadow as they collectively move his franchise into a new home and a new era. With unprecedented access to the Steinbrenner family, two-time Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple examines this challenging and intriguing transfer of power of baseball’s ultimate Family Business.
Directed by Fritz Mitchell
Summary: “The NFL Today” on CBS was one of the preeminent sports programs on television in the early 1980s. It was a perfect combination of reporting, analysis, predictions, humor and talent. But there was no personality on the show more popular than Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. Born in Steubenville, Ohio, to Greek immigrants, Jimmy overcame childhood tragedy, moved to Las Vegas, and eventually became the biggest name in the world of sports handicapping. When CBS added him as an “analyst” on “The NFL Today,” “The Greek” not only further increased his stature as a sort of national folk hero, but he also gained an air of respectability never before associated with gamblers. Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Fritz Mitchell, who broke in as an intern on “The NFL Today,” will examine Snyder’s impact on the growth of sports gambling, while also taking a fresh look at The Greek’s tragic downfall.
Directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist
Summary: Born in the same city in Colombia with the same last name, Andres Escobar and Pablo Escobar shared a fanatical childhood love for soccer. Andres grew up to become one of Colombia’s most beloved players, while Pablo rose through the ranks of the criminal underground to become not only the most notorious drug baron of all time, but also arguably the secret weapon responsible for Colombian soccer’s unprecedented rise to glory. Then, just when Colombia was expected to win the World Cup and transform its image on the international stage, the mysterious murder of Andres Escobar dashed the hopes of a nation. Fifteen years later, THE TWO ESCOBARS investigates the secret marriage of crime and sport, and uncovers the surprising connections between the murders of Andres and Pablo.
Directed by Billy Corben
Summary: 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.”
25. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks
Directed by Dan Klores
Summary: 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”.
Directed by Kirk Fraser
Summary: 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.
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