The best 8 basketball documentaries of all time
Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. LeBron James. The best players of all time have eye-opening documentaries about themselves and their careers. They have transcended the game of basketball to legendary heights and have become household names around the world.
However, some of the best basketball documentaries are about the little guys — the players who overcame all the odds for their moment in the spotlight. There are documentaries about sportsmanship, camaraderie, compassion, and teamwork.
Here are eight documentaries every basketball lover needs to watch:
1- The Last Dance
The Last Dance is the previously-undocumented story of the 1998 version of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan is the best player ever to play the magical game. Jordan went a perfect 6-0 in his NBA Finals career and never let an opposing team force a Game 7. The story is about Michael Jordan’s final season as a Bull.
The documentary shadows Jordan and co-stars Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and coach Phil Jackson. It gives a behind-the-scenes look at the season. A view that has never been seen before and one that revealed a lot about Jordan and the Bulls.
It’s telling what really goes on in a championship locker room.
2 – Benji
This sad tale is the story of Ben Wilson (Benjamin Wilson Jr), the presumptive No.1 pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. Wilson led his high school team, Simeon High in southern Chicago, to the state championship in the 1984 season as a junior. Wilson also was the beneficiary of a huge growth spurt as a sophomore, catapulting him to 6-foot-8-inches tall.
He possessed ball-handling, shooting, and passing skills that some said were already NBA ready. Then he was murdered, hit by a suspected gang member, possibly a case of wrong time and wrong place.
3 – Through The Fire
The 2005 documentary detailing the trials and tribulations of future NBA player Sebastian Telfair shows the hardships a poor star basketball player endures in New York City.
Ever since Telfair was about ten years old, he was thought of as a basketball prodigy in the basketball circle. His ball-handling skills were top-notch, and so was his court vision. But growing up in New York City had its problems.
The documentary follows Telfair during his senior year as he decides whether to play collegiate ball or head straight to the NBA.
4 – The Fab Five
The Fab Five was the first fully-freshman starting five in the modern Big Ten era.
In 1991, freshmen Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson started for the Michigan Wolverines out of Ann Arbor.
Webber, Rose, and Howard all played 15-plus years in the NBA. The rookie class is known as one of the best in college basketball history. The documentary follows the young and talented team of freshmen throughout their season, which ends in heartbreak.
5 – Magic & Bird
Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird are connected forever. White and black. Flashy and fundamental. The two players couldn’t be more opposite, yet sometimes, opposites attract.
The two first met in the 1979 College National Championship Game, and it was Johnson who would have the last laugh, as his Michigan State Spartans took down Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores.
The players met three times in the NBA Finals as well, Bird winning the first matchup with the Celtics, and Johnson winning the other two with the Lakers.
6 – Winning Time
Reggie Miller was an assassin. No, not a real one; he’s not in prison. But make no mistake, he was a Knick killer.
It was on full display during the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden. Miller was known for his legendary 3-point shot and used it early and often against the Knicks.
Miller repeatedly got involved with fans in the stands as well as the opposing coaches. This meant he was a distraction for the Knicks both on and off the court. But did Miller and his Pacers win the series?
7 – More Than A Game
Some regard LeBron James as the second-best player in NBA history. He now has four championship rings and has been the best player in the NBA for some time. He was famous before he was out of high school.
This 2008 documentary goes back in time to show viewers what it was like to be a part of LeBron James’ high school team in Akron, Ohio.
See where it all began in this incredible documentary, which sets the stage for James’ remarkable ascension into basketball lore.
8 – Without Bias
Len Bias was drafted No. 2 overall in the 1986 Draft by the Boston Celtics, one pick behind Brad Daugherty. WIth incredible physical talent, athletic ability, and basketball IQ, Len Bias was compared to Michael Jordan in his college days at the University of Maryland.
He was so excited about his inclusion into the NBA that he took a load of cocaine at the draft afterparty and overdosed. Len Bias was only 23 years old with so much life ahead of him. A cautionary tale for anyone living in the fast lane.
That brings us to the end of the list. Amongst the documentaries listed are some inspiring and tragic stories, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are definitely worth watching.