If you’re here for Gaming Today’s sports betting coverage, our guess is that your fandom courses through your veins. Whether it’s golf, basketball, football, or any other of the myriad sports within the betting orbit, we’ve got you covered.
Today, we’re taking a different approach. Rather than our usual betting odds, picks, and predictions, the GT writers have compiled a list of our favorite sports documentaries, including where you can watch them!
The Last Dance – Netflix
Breaking news: Chicago writer recommends Michael Jordan documentary. I imagine it comes as no surprise that The Last Dance makes our list, and it’s even less of a surprise that it’s coming from GT’s resident Chicagoan.
But let’s be real. The Last Dance is good. So good that it transcends team loyalty. Michael Jordan’s rise to basketball stardom offers a breathtaking look at one of the greatest athletes in modern history. He wasn’t just a basketball player. He wasn’t just a Chicago Bull. He was a driving force that elevated the sport and forever raised the bar for the NBA. And while LeBron James fans have a compelling case to make, we Chicagoans know who the real GOAT is. Ten episodes of amazing storytelling and heyday Bulls highlights? Sign me up.
No No: A Dockumentary
The best topics for a documentary are the most relatable. People love everyday people and they love to hear stories about challenges. That’s why “Last Dance” is terrible: no one can relate to Michael Jordan. Not the average basketball player, not his teammates (especially the ones he punched in the face), and not people who don’t make oodles of millions of dollars for having their names on a sneaker. Nope, Last Dance was eight hours too long and dripping of way too much scotch-drinking MJ looking into the camera to explain how great he was. Yawn.
No No: A Dockumentary details the fascinating life of Dock Ellis, a major league pitcher who never won 20 games in a season, and who barely had a winning record on the mound. Ellis was on the field when the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded the first all-black lineup in the early 1970s. He was there in the clubhouse wearing curlers in his hair, and listening to disco music. He was also, most amazingly, on the hill tossing a no-hitter while he was under the influence of LSD.
“No No” details Ellis’ career as a big-league pitcher, his place in baseball history as the 1970s were changing the game forever, and the documentary explores his years in rehab and how Dock emerged as a substance abuse counselor to change people’s lives. Now that’s a DOCKumentary. Heck, Michael Jordan couldn’t even hit a fastball.
Four Nights In October: Netflix/ESPN+
Headline: New Yorker says the Red Sox documentary is the greatest sports documentary ever.
Produced by Emmy award-winning Bill Simmons (formerly of ESPN/Grantland), Four Nights In October romanticizes the greatest comeback in sports history. Down 3-0 in a best of seven series, the Boston Red Sox would put on one of the wildest comebacks we have ever seen. From the eyes of a Red Sox fan, you will watch the Red Sox comeback with real footage from Boston bars and phenomenal fan reactions.
I remember watching the games as a kid, and guys like Keith Foulke and Johnny Damon ripped the hearts out of Yankees fans. From David Ortiz turning into Superman, Curt Schilling on one leg stymying the Yankee lineup, and many more earth-shattering performances that deserve recognition. Every sports fan will love to hear the words – “the Boston Red Sox are world champions” from Joe Buck’s voice. Whether you are a Yankee fan or not, how can you not be romantic about this story?
Hoop Dreams – HBO Max
Two high school basketball players in the early-1990s see the pros as a ticket out of one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. To take their talent to the next level, they’re recruited by a majority-white high school that boasts Isaiah Thomas’s former basketball program. But they struggle to fit in, struggle to compete at such a competitive level, and it’s all made even more daunting by the backdrop of poverty.
The end result is a gripping, powerful, sensitively told story of class and race, where the only crystal-clear sense of hope is through the potential for sports greatness.
Hoop Dreams (1994) is closer to a traditional documentary than it is a sports movie. But it’s widely considered one of the best—if not the GOAT—sports docs ever produced. And you can catch it on HBO Max today.
In Search of Greatness – Amazon Prime
I’ve never been into professional sports. Athleticism was a curse word in my house growing up; competition makes me queasy, and I’ve never fully understood the appeal of watching multi-millionaires chase balls, pucks, shuttlecocks, etc. up and down courts to thunderous applause.
Yes, I’m one of “those” people.
Fortunately, Gabe Polsky’s 2018 documentary In Search of Greatness was made for sports fans and for people who wouldn’t know Air Jordans from Air France. The director gains unprecedented access to living legends like Wayne Gretzky, Pelé, and Jerry Rice, whose anecdotes go way beyond play-by-plays of their biggest games. Their intimate stories of hard work, adversity, and responsibility to fans all over the world reveal them to be more than just physically aspirational figures.
Polsky also digs into the science of sports, and how society’s attitudes towards winning have evolved over time. Through animation, montage, and interviews, we’re invited to consider top-tier athletes as literal machines that have been constructed, refined, and focused on a singular goal.
It’s been years since I watched In Search of Greatness, and I still haven’t picked up a love of football, hockey, or soccer. But I no longer flip right past pro games while channel surfing–stopping instead for a few moments to admire the teamwork, sportsmanship, and superhuman skill on display. That’s a miracle.
It’s also, from what I understand, some kind of sports reference.
Free Solo – Disney Plus
Free Solo (2018) follows professional rock climber Alex Honnold, who doesn’t just scale some of the largest cliffs in the world, he does it without ropes. And his goal is to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a roughly 3,000-foot feat that would mark the highest free solo climb ever.
This thrilling sports documentary takes us through his training, which involves practicing with ropes what he’ll eventually have to do with just his hands and feet. The climb involves jumps across a gap. It involves using the strength of just one thumb to pivot his entire upper body. He falls several times while practicing. I had my mouth covered in rapt attention for half the movie.
They also test his brain to see how he can so calmly risk his life, and the breakdown of his psyche makes this worth watching in and of itself.
Catch Free Solo (2018) on Disney Plus the moment you get a chance. The only thing you’ll regret is sleeping on it until now.