ESPN’s 30for30 debuts tonight

Tonight ESPN launches a series of documentaries, and I’m eager to tune in. 30 for 30 celebrates the network’s 30th anniversary by presenting 30 docs by 30 respected filmmakers. 

Produced by Bill Simmons, the lineup is fairly tight.  Well-done sports documentaries are hard to come by because often times the subject matter is just not interesting enough.  Here, Simmons has given his filmmakers the opportunity to explore less-familiar stories, or familiar stories with a new wrinkle.


“We were especially attracted to stories that resonated at the time but were eventually forgotten for whatever reason. Like the unique connection between Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble,” Simmons writes.  “Like Tim Richmond taking NASCAR by storm, disappearing just as quickly because of an “illness” (later revealed to be AIDS), then having his story covered up and dismissed. Like O.J.’s car chase, Escobar’s own goal and Jimmy the Greek’s career imploding in just a few sentences. Like the 2004 Red Sox winning four incredible games in four nights against the Yankees; even if the big picture theme had been beaten to death, the small picture theme (every remarkable twist from Game 4 through Game 7) had never really been told. We wanted people to say, “Wow, I forgot how (fill in a word: great, amazing, poignant, crazy, depressing, unbelievable) that was” or “I can’t believe I never knew that whole story.” We didn’t want to check off a laundry list of the 30 biggest stories from 1979 to 2009.” 

Barry Levinson, Albert Maysles, John Singleton, Barbara Kopple, Spike Jonze and Ice Cube are just a few of the directors who contribute. Tonight the series kicks off with Kings Ransom, Peter Berg’s piece about Wayne Gretzky being traded to the L.A. Kings.

The docs air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.  You can preview several of the movies and scope out the lineup here.

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