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ESPN Films and its acclaimed “30 for 30” series will return this spring with eight films from a star-studded filmmaker roster that includes Ice Cube, Steve James, Dan Klores, Brett Morgen and more. Joining the lineup will be Sean Pamphilon’s intimate portrait of embattled football player Ricky Williams’ hiatus from football in Run Ricky Run. The slate begins with a special presentation Sunday, March 14 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPNHD with Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks. The schedule then gets underway again in its regular Tuesday slot with No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson April 13 at 8 p.m.
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (Dan Klores) – March 14, 9 p.m.
Reggie Miller single-handedly crushed the hearts of Knick fans multiple times. But it was the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals which solidified Miller as “The Garden’s Greatest Villain.” With seconds to go in Game 1, and facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 105 – 99, Miller scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds to give his Indiana Pacers an astonishing victory. This career-defining performance, combined with his give-and-take with Knick fan Spike Lee, made Miller and the Knicks the spotlight story of the 1995 NBA post season. Award-winning director Dan Klores will explore how Miller proudly built his legend as the Big Apple’s Public Enemy #1 to become the king of the New York streets.
No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (Steve James) – April 13, 8 p.m.
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.
Silly Little Game (Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen) – April 20, 8 p.m.
Fantasy sports are 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 fantasy baseball, and shine a light on its mostly unnoticed innovators.
Run Ricky Run (Sean Pamphilon) – April 27, 8 p.m.
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 America’s Pothead. 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 time away from football and beyond, filmmaker Sean Pamphilon takes a fresh look at a player who had become a media punching bag and has since redeemed himself as a father and a teammate.
Straight Outta L.A. (Ice Cube) – May 4, 8 p.m.
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 numbers 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 “Gangsta Rap” and the hip-hop scene that was permeating South Central Los Angeles. Rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube was not only witness to this revolution, he was also a part of it. As a member of the controversial 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.
The Two Escobars (Jeff Zimbalist) – May 11, 8 p.m.
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. Soccer was the vehicle for Colombia to transform its image on the international stage. But after its shocking early elimination from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, 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.
June 17, 1994 (Brett Morgen) – June 16, 10 p.m.
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 U.S. Open round at Oakmont, the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Chicago, the Rangers celebrated their first Stanley Cup in 54 years on Broadway, Ken Griffey Jr. reached a milestone in Kansas City and Patrick Ewing desperately pursued a long evasive championship in the Garden. And yet, all of that was a prelude to OJ 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 nostalgic look at a day that no sports fan could forget.
The 16th Man (Cliff Bestall, Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman) – June 22, 8 p.m.
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 long entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1992, 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 mostly white, the South African Springboks gained supporters of all colors as they made an improbable run into the finals and then beat heavily favored New Zealand. When Mandela himself marched to the center of the pitch cloaked in a Springbok jersey and embraced the members of the South African team, two nations became one. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, producer Lori McCreary and director Cliff Bestall will tell the emotional story of that cornerstone moment and what it meant to South Africa’s healing process.
Winning Time has been named an official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival while No Crossover has been tagged for the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival, continuing the series’ presence at prestigious industry events. Kings Ransom and The Band That Wouldn’t Die were official selections of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
Ratings So Far
The December 12, 2009 airing of Billy Corben’s The U, posted a 1.8 rating for an average of 1.8 million homes (2.368 M viewers, P2+) making it ESPN’s highest-rated documentary of all time (The Greatest Game Ever Played aired December 13, 2008, and earned a 1.4 rating – 1.369 million households, 1.811 M viewers). To date, the series’ first seven films earned an average 1.0 rating (1,007,000 homes, 1,258,000 viewers).
“30 for 30”
Other previously announced “30 for 30” projects are: Reggie Rock Bythewood (One Night in Vegas), Academy Award winner Bill Couturié (Guru of Go), Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (Catching Hell), Jonathan Hock (The Best That Never Was), Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (Birth of Big Air), two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (The House That George Built), Academy Award nominee Frank Marshall (Right to Play), Steve Michaels, Joel Surnow and Jonathan Koch (Charismatic), two-time NBA MVP and first-time filmmaker Steve Nash (Into the Wind), Academy Award nominee Ron Shelton (Jordan Rides the Bus) and two-time Academy Award nominee John Singleton (Marion Jones: Press Pause).For information about the “30 for 30” project and ESPN Films, visit: ESPN Films.
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