stream 30 for 30


The 30 best 30 for 30 documentaries, ranked

You can watch them all on-demand with ESPN+.


Eddie Strait


Posted on Sep 30, 2020   Updated on Jan 27, 2021, 7:07 am CST

You can stream 30 for 30, ESPN’s award-winning sports documentary series, on ESPN Plus.

2020 has brought a few new entries to the table that made our list. The Last Dance covered an era-defining, Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls team. A compelling new Oscar Pistorius documentary, released Sept. 27, covers his career and the murder that changed everything for him.

Here is our ranking of the 30 best 30 for 30 episodes, all of which you can stream on-demand with a subscription to ESPN Plus.

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ESPN+ bundled
with Disney+
and Hulu

The 30 best 30 for 30 episodes

1) The Last Dance

When sports went on hiatus for the pandemic in Spring 2020, ESPN’s debut of The Last Dance wasn’t just a sports documentary event. It was a bonafide sports event. The eight-hour series followed the Chicago Bulls 1997-98 season—the sixth and final title for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. It is an epic and fascinating look at a legendary dynasty.

ESPN Michael Jordan The Last Dance
The Last Dance/Netflix

2) Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies

watch 30 for 30 celtics lakers for free
The Last Dance/Netflix

The NBA’s defining rivalry forms the basis of one of 30 for 30’s definitive outings. Told over three parts and five hours, the doc is incredibly thorough and has many of the biggest names associated with the rivalry, including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.  

3) The Two Escobars

This outstanding doc covers soccer player Andres Escobar and drug lord Pablo Escobar, and how the two men, murdered within a year of each other, shaped and continue to shape the public image of Colombia.

best 30 for 30 two escobars
The 2 Escobars

4) June 17th, 1994

One of the most acclaimed 30 for 30s, this portrait covers the surreal summer day where major events in the NBA, NHL, PGA, MLB, and World Cup took a backseat to O.J. Simpson’s car chase. The doc juxtaposes footage from each event to create a compelling snapshot of America.

30 or 30 June 17th, 1994
The 2 Escobars

5) Youngstown Boys

Youngstown Boys examines the collegiate football scandal that brought down a legendary coach and his star player, the Ohio State University coach Jim Tressel and running back Maurice Clarett, but it zooms out enough to unpack larger issues with how the NCAA and NFL conspire to profit off of and use star athletes for their own ends. Youngstown Boys is a must-watch.

30 for 30 Youngstown Boys
Maurice Clarett/YouTube

6) Without Bias

This was the first truly great 30 for 30, chronicling the death of Len Bias, days after the Celtics took him with the second pick in the 1986 draft. Bias’s death, the result of a cocaine overdose, rocked the league and the city of Boston. It’s a sobering look at what could’ve been and what never was.

30 for 30 Without Bias
Maurice Clarett/YouTube

7) The U

The high-flying and hard-partying Miami Hurricanes are the subjects of this raucous doc. The 1980s were wild, and the Hurricanes’ players enjoyed every bit of their success. The U offers straightforward, no-frills storytelling, but it doesn’t need to be with subjects this compelling and energetic.

30 for 30 The U

8) Pony Excess

The NCAA’s most severe punishment has been handed out only a few times, most notably to the SMU football program. Pony Excess provides a thrilling look at the delirious highs that precipitated the program’s lowest moment.

30 for 30 Pony Excess

9) No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson’s Hall of Fame NBA career almost never happened due to a 1993 incident that resulted in Iverson receiving a 15-year prison sentence. As presented by filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams), No Crossover offers a timeless tale about race and celebrity in America.

30 for 30 No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

10) What Carter Lost

The Friday night lights burn brightest in Texas, and this excellent entry shines a light on every part of Carter High School’s football team in 1988. The team’s wealth of talent overflowed, and on-field success led to off-field notoriety. The team, the school, and the community were all upended when numerous players were arrested for their role in various armed robberies.

30 for 30 What Carter Lost

11) Elway to Marino

It’s rare for a single NFL draft to produce a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback. The 1983 draft had two in John Elway and Dan Marino. Both players shared an agent in Marvin Demoff, who fortuitously kept a diary of that year’s draft process. Football junkies will get a kick out of this one, while fans of the team that passed on Marino or the ones who didn’t trade up for Elway will be kicking themselves.

30 for 30 Elway to Marino

12) Fantastic Lies

Director Marina Zenovich strikes a captivating balance between covering the Duke Lacrosse scandal of 2006 and covering the coverage of the case. The intersection of race, privilege, sexual misconduct, media, the law, and court of public opinion combine to make Fantastic Lies a rewarding viewing experience.

30 for 30 Fantastic Lies

13) The Best That Never Was

It doesn’t take an expert to know that college football recruiting is corrupt to high hell. Marcus Dupree is just one of countless stories about a system that eats up young athletes. Dupree, a prodigious talent, went through a wild recruiting process when choosing a college. A combination of injuries and bad advice sapped him of his potential and most of his money. The Best That Never Was is a sobering doc.

30 for 30 The Best That Never Was

14) Run Ricky Run

Ricky Williams is one of the NFL’s greatest enigmas. His talent was off the charts (he led the league in rushing in 2002 and was voted 1st Team All-Pro), but his interests went far beyond football. Run Ricky Run does a great job presenting the different facets of a man trying to reconcile his on-field gifts, which everyone understood, with his mental health issues, which are less clear, even after this intriguing documentary.

30 for 30 Run Ricky Run

15) Requiem for the Big East

This one focuses on the Big East, which dominated college basketball from the conference’s beginnings in 1979 until its dissolution in 2013. Requiem was directed by Ezra Edelman, who would go on to make the single best film to carry the 30 for 30 banner with O.J.: Made in America.

30 for 30 Requiem for the Big East
The NBA on ESPN/YouTube

16) Four Falls of Buffalo

No NFL franchise has suffered a combination of success and failure like the Buffalo Bills in the early ‘90s. Four Falls looks at what it took to get to four straight Super Bowls and the ways in which they lost each one. The doc has great access to archival footage and interviewees. If this isn’t a top-tier 30 for 30, it’s just below.  

30 for 30 Four Falls of Buffalo
Aurélie Quinn/YouTube

17) Playing for the Mob

The intersection of sports, gambling, and the mob is an irresistible mix, and Playing for the Mob goes all in on that trio. The film covers the point-shaving scandal at Boston College University. One of the key players is Henry Hill, who everyone immediately recognizes from Goodfellas. Directors Joe Lavine and Cayman Grant got the fictional Henry Hill, Ray Liotta, to narrate the doc. Playing is propulsive and great.

30 for 30 Playing for the Mob

18) This Magic Moment

Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal’s brief run together with the Orlando Magic could’ve and should’ve been much more fruitful than it turned out. This Magic Moment does a great job of detailing how a potential juggernaut came together and how it fell apart just as quickly.

30 for 30 This Magic Moment

19) The Price of Gold

Nannette Burstein’s approach to the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan story is straightforward, and The Price of Gold is all the better for it. The doc is thorough, or at least as thorough as it can be with only Harding participating in interviews for it. Still, it’s a fascinating document of a story that gripped the country in the winter of 1994.

30 for 30 The Price of Gold
John samren/YouTube

20) The U: Part 2

The exuberance of The U comes to a crashing halt in Part 2. The Miami Hurricanes football program’s return to prominence reached its peak in the early 2000s under coach Butch Davis. After Davis left, the success continued under Larry Coker. But the scandals that had been vanquished under Davis returned in full force and brought the program back to Earth. Part 2 isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, but it’s still solid.

30 for 30 The U Part 2

21) Once Brothers

Sports had a bonding power unlike any other. But the friendship between Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, two men who played on Yugoslavia’s national team, was torn by the Yugoslav Wars. Tragically, the two never got the chance to reconcile, as Petrovic’s life was cut short by a car accident, a fact Divac struggles to come to terms with in this heartbreaking 30 for 30.

30 for 30 Once Brothers

22) Benji

This is an emotional 30 for 30, similar to the great Without Bias. Ben Wilson was a Chicago basketball phenom who was murdered before graduating high school. Benji reminds us of the talent lost and never realized with Ben’s passing, but also of the social factors that played a role.

30 for 30 Benji
Creative Control/YouTube

23) The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius

This would be fascinating as just an exploration of the “Blade Runner.” Pistorius was a Paralympics athlete who crossed over into Olympic competition after dominating his sport. But that’s just half the story. Pistorius was convicted for the murder of his girlfriend, and this documentary ably tells that part of his ultimately tragic story.

stream the Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius
Creative Control/YouTube

24) Rand University

Randy Moss was as dominant a receiver as the NFL has ever seen, and Rand University does his talent and story justice. It’s a straight-forward biography, telling Moss’s story from his upbringing through his NFL career. Moss is a compelling figure, and that helps elevate the run-of-the-mill presentation of Rand University.

Fanatics View/YouTube

25) Mike and the Mad Dog

Among sports talk personalities, Mike Francesca and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo are legends and a once-legendary team. You don’t need to be familiar with the New York-based duo to be entertained by this insightful doc.

30 for 30 Mike and the Mad Dog
Fanatics View/YouTube

26) Straight Outta L.A.

A passion project for director Ice Cube, Straight Outta L.A. ties together the Los Angeles Raiders and the rise of hip-hop (including N.W.A.), and its impact on both cultures. Cube gets great access for a lively doc about an L.A. fan base that has since seen its team go to Las Vegas. (Don’t feel bad for them, though; they have two teams to choose from.)

30 for 30 Straight Outta L.A.

27) Unmatched

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert sat down with Hannah Storm for a series of interviews with the two tennis stars about their intense, 80-match rivalry. We should be so lucky to have more of these sessions between legends from all sports. Unmatched covers the on-court dynamic between the two, but it’s the off-court relationship that fuels the doc’s success.

30 for 30 Unmatched

28) Vick

Michael Vick is one of the most important NFL players of the 21st century. His prodigious talent made him appointment viewing on Sundays with the Atlanta Falcons. When his downfall came, it stunned the sports world. After pleading guilty to felony charges for the dog fighting ring he funded and ran, Vick seemed like nothing more than a cautionary tale. Then he returned to the NFL and became a star once again. Vick is a comprehensive look at the complicated career and legacy of Michael Vick and, even though most people know his story, it’s still compelling viewing.

29) When the Garden Was Eden

Die-hard Knicks fan Michael Rapaport directs this lively doc. Between his passion for the Knicks and the great interviews and ‘70s archival footage, When the Garden Was Eden will make you a Knicks’ fan for at least 90 minutes.

30 for 30 When the Garden Was Eden

30) Survive and Advance

College basketball’s most famous Cinderella team was the 1983 NC State Wolfpack. The team’s run to the March Madness title is thrilling, but the doc gets its strength from the presence of the Wolfpack’s preternaturally thoughtful coach, Jim Valvano.

30 for 30 Survive and Advance

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*First Published: Sep 30, 2020, 9:15 am CDT