ESPN’s 30 for 30 Basketball Episodes

Listing all 49 of the 30 for 30 basketball episodes. The series currently includes a total of 34 full-length installments and 15 shorts that are all related to basketball in some way. Some of these docs are really fantastic, diving into the greatest stories in basketball history, NBA and beyond.

Table of Contents

I’d go one further and say that a few of these belong on the short list of greatest basketball films of all time (top 100 at least). Take the excitement of the sport, dig into it’s most compelling side stories, and you have a collection of basketball history that will serve fans for generations.

Volume I

The initial run, the first series of 30 docs included 7 episodes which touched on the subject of basketball. Each episode was around 1 hour in length. The first installment of the 30 for 30 series was released between October 2009 and December 2010.

Without Bias – Episode 5 (November 3, 2009)

This documentary chronicles the life of Len Bias, an All-American basketball player from the University of Maryland. On June 19th, 1986, Bias died of a cocaine overdose just two days after being drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics. Featuring interviews with family, friends and teammates, Without Bias explores the life, basketball career, and tragic death of Len Bias and the impact it had on the NBA.

Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks – Episode 8 (March 14, 2010)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary chronicles the intense rivalry between legendary NBA player Reggie Miller and the New York Knicks during the 1990s. Following Miller’s eight-point performance in the final 8.9 seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the rivalry between Miller and the Knicks escalated. Featuring interviews with Miller, Knicks players, and former coaches, Winning Time examines the impact of the Miller-Knicks rivalry on the NBA.

Guru of Go – Episode 9 (April 3, 2010)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary chronicles the life and career of Paul Westhead, a former NBA coach who revolutionized basketball with his fast-paced, high-scoring offense. Featuring interviews with Westhead, current and former players, and coaches, Guru of Go looks at the impact Westhead had on the league and how his offense changed the game of basketball.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson – Episode 10 (April 13, 2010)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary chronicles the story of Allen Iverson and the events leading up to his trial for a bowling alley brawl in 1993. Featuring interviews with Iverson, family, and friends, No Crossover examines the impact of the trial on Iverson’s life and the perception of him in the media.

June 17, 1994 – Episode 15 (June 2016, 2010)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary chronicles the events of June 17th, 1994, when baseball, golf and the NBA Finals were all broadcasted on the same day for the first time in history. Featuring interviews with athletes, journalists, and fans, June 17, 1994 looks at the impact of this unique day and how it changed the sports landscape.

Jordan Rides the Bus – Episode 18 (August 24, 2010)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary chronicles the story of Michael Jordan’s short-lived career in baseball. After abruptly retiring from the NBA in 1993, Jordan joined the minor league Birmingham Barons in an attempt to pursue a career in baseball. Featuring interviews with teammates, coaches, and Jordan himself, Jordan Rides the Bus examines the impact of Jordan’s decision and his time in the minor leagues.

Once Brothers – Episode 25 (October 12, 2010)

Once Brothers - One of the coolest NBA 30 for 30 episodes.

The region of the world formerly known as Yugoslavia has evolved into a wellspring of basketball talent over the years. Paving the way for today’s dominant NBA players that hail from this region (think players like Nikola Jokić and Luka Dončić for a start) was a batch of young players in the late 1980’s.

This installment of 30 for 30 examines the bonds formed between a number of these players as they transition into the NBA, the stresses put on their relationships as their home country is divided in a civil war, and the tragic death of Dražen Petrović in a car crash in 1993. But it ultimately revolves around the Serb Center Vlade Divac, his attempt to reconcile with his Croat teammates and his struggle with the inability to do so with his fallen friend.

This is my personal favorite basketball 30 for 30 episode. It’s deeply emotional, and historically relevant.

ESPN films Presents

The series continues with a number of episodes that were originally slated for the first volume, but didn’t quite make the cut. This set contains 4 episodes on the subject of basketball.

The Fab Five – Episode 31 (March 13, 2011)

This 30 for 30 episode chronicles the rise of the University of Michigan’s basketball team, the Fab Five, from 1991-1993. Featuring interviews from the five original members—Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson—as well as coach Steve Fisher, this documentary dives into the cultural impact of the team and its legacy.

Unguarded – Episode 37 (November 1, 2011)

This 30 for 30 episode follows the life of Chris Herren, a former Boston Celtics player who battled substance abuse and addiction. With interviews from Herren, his family and friends, viewers follow his journey from the heights of professional basketball to his struggles with addiction and his eventual recovery.

Goose – Episode 40 (February 26, 2012)

This 30 for 30 episode tells the story of Mark “Goose” Guggenheim, a professional golfer who tragically died at the age of 28 in a private plane crash in 1987. Featuring interviews from Guggenheim’s family and friends, as well as professional golfers, this documentary explores his life and career, as well as the lasting impact he has had on the sport.

The Announcement – Episode 41 (March 11, 2012)

An inside look at Magic Johnson’s shocking 1991 HIV announcement. We got to follow his emotional journey and see the public’s confused and ignorant reactions to the virus and AIDS.

Magic shares his fear and courage, and how he ultimately used his platform to educate the public about a disease that was mostly whispered about or ignored.

Magic Johnson is a hero for stepping up and taking responsibility for his own promiscuity, and “The Announcement” is must-see TV for anyone wanting to learn more about this extraordinary individual.

Volume II

There’s No Place Like Home – Episode 46 (October 16, 2012)

This 30 for 30 documentary feature tells the story of the rise and fall of the original Kansas City Royals. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and executives, the film traces the Royals’ history from their expansion in 1969 to their championship season in 1985, to their eventual decline and contraction in 1987.

Benji – Episode 47 (October 23, 2012)

This film follows the remarkable story of Benji Wilson, the most talented high school basketball player of the 1980s. The documentary includes interviews with those closest to him, including family members, coaches, and former teammates, as well as archival footage of his remarkable games. The film details Wilson’s meteoric rise to superstardom, his tragic death in 1984, and his lasting legacy in the game of basketball.

Survive and Advance – Episode 50 (March 17, 2013)

This 30 for 30 examines the incredible story of Jim Valvano and the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack. The film takes a look back at the team’s run to the 1983 NCAA National Championship and features interviews with the players and coaches from that team, along with archival footage from the tournament.

Free Spirits – Episode 53 (October 8, 2013)

This 30 for 30 documentary recounts the remarkable story of the American Basketball Association’s Spirits of St. Louis. The film features interviews with former players, coaches, and team officials, as well as archival footage from the team’s time in the ABA. It also chronicles the team’s meteoric rise and sudden demise, and its lasting impact on the game of basketball.

Bernie and Ernie – Episode 57 (November 5, 2013)

This film tells the story of the remarkable friendship between New York Knicks teammates Bernie Bickerstaff and Ernie Grunfeld. The documentary includes interviews with former players and coaches, as well as archival footage from their time together on the team. It also chronicles their successes and failures, and the lasting impact they had on the game of basketball.

Requiem for the Big East – Episode 60 (March 16, 2014)

This 30 for 30 chronicles the rise and fall of the legendary Big East Conference. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and administrators, the film traces the history of the Big East from its founding in 1979 to its dissolution in 2013.

Bad Boys – Episode 61 (April 17, 2014)

This documentary examines the rise of the Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Featuring interviews with former players and coaches, as well as archival footage from the team’s time in the NBA, the film chronicles the team’s incredible run to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990.

Playing for the Mob – Episode 63 (October 7, 2014)

This film tells the remarkable story of mob-connected gambler and basketball fixer Henry Hill. The documentary includes interviews with former players, coaches, and associates, as well as archival footage from the time period. It details Hill’s life of crime, his involvement in the point-shaving scandal of 1978, and his eventual downfall.

When the Garden Was Eden – Episode 65 (October 21, 2014)

This 30 for 30 documentary chronicles the remarkable story of the New York Knicks teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Featuring interviews with former players and coaches, as well as archival footage from the time period, the film recounts the team’s rise to dominance and their two championships in 1970 and 1973.

I Hate Christian Laettner – Episode 72 (March 15, 2015)

This film tells the story of Christian Laettner, one of the most polarizing figures in college basketball history. Featuring interviews with former teammates, coaches, and opponents, the documentary examines Laettner’s controversial career at Duke, his success in the NBA, and his lasting legacy in the game of basketball.

Sole Man – Episode 73 (April 16, 2015)

This 30 for 30 documentary tells the remarkable story of Nike co-founder and shoe designer Phil Knight. Featuring interviews with Knight and his associates, as well as archival footage of Nike’s rise to dominance, the film chronicles Knight’s journey from an unknown business student to one of the most influential figures in the sports world.

Volume III

This Magic Moment – Episode 82 (April 14, 2016)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of the Orlando Magic’s incredible run to the 1995 NBA Finals. Featuring interviews with players, coaches, and commentators, the film looks back at the team’s unexpected success and how it galvanized the city of Orlando. Production for This Magic Moment began in 2020.

Believeland – Episode 83 (May 14, 2016)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of the Cleveland sports landscape between 1964 and 2016, when the city went 52 years without a major sports championship. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and fans, the film looks back at the struggles and heartbreak endured by Cleveland sports fans during this time. Production for Believeland began in 2020.

Phi Slama Jama – Episode 85 (October 18, 2016)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of the University of Houston Cougars’ legendary basketball team of the early 1980s. Featuring interviews with former players and coaches, the film looks back at the team’s high-flying style of play and its impact on college basketball. Production for Phi Slama Jama began in 2020.

One and Not Done – Episode 89 (April 13, 2017)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of legendary college basketball coach John Calipari and his success at the University of Kentucky. Featuring interviews with former players and coaches, the film looks back at Calipari’s rise to prominence and his impact on the game. Production for One and Not Done began in 2020.

Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies – Episode 90 (June 13 & 14, 2017) 3 part series

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers from the 1980s to the 2000s. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and commentators, the film looks back at the intense rivalry between the two teams and its impact on the NBA. Production for Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies began in 2020.

The Last Days of Knight – Episode 98 (April 12, 2018)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of Bob Knight’s tenure as men’s basketball coach at Indiana University. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and commentators, the film examines the controversial end to Knight’s career and his legacy. Production for The Last Days of Knight began in 2020.

The Dominican Dream – Episode 102 (April 30, 2019)

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of the Dominican Republic’s rise to prominence in Major League Baseball. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and commentators, the film examines the country’s emergence as a baseball powerhouse and its impact on the game. Production for The Dominican Dream began in 2020.

Down in the Valley

This ESPN 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of the University of Memphis’ men’s basketball team in the 1980s and early 1990s. Featuring interviews with former players, coaches, and commentators, the film looks back at the team’s incredible run to the Final Four and its impact on the city of Memphis. Production for Down in the Valley began in 2020.

Volume IV

Rodman: For Better or Worse – Episode 105 (September 10, 2019)

Rodman: For Better or Worse, one of the best basketball 30-for-30 episodes.

Dennis Rodman is a polarizing figure. There was his stint with the Bad Boy Pistons of Detroit in the late 80’s. And you can’t overlook his weird and controversial friendship with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un. But the casual basketball fan could be forgiven for overlooking the complexity of his character for any of his more controversial stunts.

This installment covers his turbulent youth and the desperation for approval that leads him through a number of unlikely bonds and eventually make him one of the most iconic NBA players in history. What’s revealed is a portrait of a unique genius, confused and misguided at times for certain, but just struggling to find himself and live with celebrity that he maybe doesn’t feel he deserves.

You can sure disagree with the guy or judge him for his actions. But when you get a more complete picture, it’s hard to not feel compassion for him and recognize his incredible talent and the uniqueness of his story.

Breakaway – Episode 114 (July 13,2021)

The Greatest Mixtape Ever – Episode 118 (May 31, 2022)

Dream On – Episode 119 (June 15, 2022) 3 part series

the Luckiest Guy in the World – Episode 123 (June 6 and June 13, 2023) 4 part series

Legendary Dead Head Bill Walton intricately covering his career path, winning multiple NCAA titles with John Wooden’s Bruins and going on to an epic, though injury ravaged career in the NBA.

30 for 30 Shorts About Basketball

Disdain the Mundane – # 6 (February 13, 2013)

This documentary explores the life of the late rapper and producer Mac Miller and his close friends, as they recall his journey from bedroom producer in Pittsburgh to platinum-selling artist.

Silver Reunion – # 8 (March 27, 2013)

This documentary follows the 30th anniversary of the University of Michigan’s 1989 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship team, as the team’s former members reunite to relive the glory of their historic championship win.

Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop – # 12 (August 14, 2013)

Borscht Belt Bellhop: This documentary looks back at the late basketball star Wilt Chamberlain’s summer job as a bellhop in a Jewish resort in the Catskills in the early 1950s.

The Great Imposter – # 16 (November 20, 2013)

This documentary tells the story of Filipino-American con artist Ferdinand Waldo Demara, who impersonated a range of people including a doctor, a lawyer, a monk, and a professor.

Untucked – # 19 (March 12, 2014)

This documentary follows a group of high school students in Los Angeles who compete in a dance competition known as “Untucked,” with the aim of winning a scholarship to a prestigious arts school.

From Harlem With Love – # 20 (April 23, 2014)

This documentary tells the story of professional boxers Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and John D’Amato, who formed an unlikely bond after D’Amato offered to help Carter in his fight against false imprisonment.

Posterized – # 21 (May 21, 2014)

This documentary follows the rise of Chinese basketball star Stephon Marbury and his journey to the NBA, where he became a household name through his iconic poster dunks.

MECCA: The Floor That Made Milwaukee Famous – # 22 (June 11, 2014)

This documentary looks back at the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team’s iconic MECCA court, which became a symbol of the city and a site of some of the most iconic basketball moments of the 1970s.

The Billion Dollar Game – # 33 (March 18, 2015)

This documentary examines the billion-dollar business of college football, with a focus on the teams vying for the national championship in the 2018 season.

Freidman’s Shoes – #47 (February 9, 2016)

This documentary follows the story of the Friedman family, who built a successful shoe business from the ground up in the early 20th century, and how their legacy continues to shape the shoe industry today.

Slick, Nancy, and the Telethon – #48 (February 16, 2016)

This documentary tells the story of Slick Leonard, Nancy Leonard, and the Indiana Pacers, and their involvement in the first ever NBA telethon, which raised money for charity.

I Am Yup’ik – #50 (March 1, 2016)

This documentary follows the life of a teenage Yup’ik girl in rural Alaska, as she embarks on a journey to discover her identity and the importance of her culture in a rapidly changing world.

No Kin to Me – #51 (March 8, 2016)

This documentary follows a group of relatives of the late Paul Robeson as they embark on a journey to uncover the life of their iconic ancestor and the legacy he left behind.

A.C. Green: Iron Virgin – #55 (May 10, 2016)

This documentary looks back at the career of NBA star A.C. Green and his choice to remain a virgin until marriage, despite the temptations of fame and fortune.

The Amazing Adventure of Wally and The Worm- #65 (December 15, 2017)

This documentary tells the story of Wally Ritchie, a former professional golfer, and his unlikely friendship with a worm that he found on the golf course.

The Best 30 for 30 Basketball episodes

I can’t just watch all of these docs and take notes and write little descriptions about each one without formulating some opinions. And if you’re going to watch a few of these, you might as well start with the good ones.

I’ll give you two. These are both fascinating stories about some NBA legends that reveal entirely new understandings of their characters.

The first is Episode 25 – Once Brothers. This one documents the emergence of the former Yugoslavia on the international basketball scene, the splintering of the national team into civil war, and a broken brotherhood between 2 NBA greats that is never resolved. It’s wild, and adds a lot of color to the Eastern European hoops story.

And then there’s Episode 10 – Rodman: For Better or Worse. This is the Rodman episode. You might remember the dude (if you’re old enough) as the most famous NBA player on the planet and a great defender for the second half of the Jordan Bulls, But he was better known for stuff that happened off the court.

But what we saw of Rodman, a sort of a peacock dude, up for attention, maybe a little rebellious even. That’s a small part of the story and it neglects the depth of this fascinating character. I kinda like the guy after watching this, except he does claim ‘friendship’ with one of the worlds most controversial dictators.

Where to Watch Episodes of ESPN’s 30 for 30.

ESPN started rolling out a series of sports documentaries in 2009 covering some of the most compelling stories in the world of sports since the founding of the network in 1979. The series (in mostly its entirety) is available on Hulu or ESPN+, but Disney Plus hosts a selection of episodes as well. Typically you end up with all 3 services in a bundle.

Also, since you need ESPN+ or Disney+ to watch most of the 30 for 30 episodes, you might just have the bundle that includes Hulu. There are some great basketball movies on Hulu right now. And I’ve also got a list of basketball movies on Disney+ to look into.