I don’t know what it is, but every time I watch a sports documentary I feel invigorated and re-charged. Like someone lit a fire under me. I suppose that the whole point of a sports doc, really. If you don’t want to get up and go for whatever you're chasing after in this life, the doc hasn’t done its job. When I’m watching a doc, I want more than highlights and interviews. I want a story that inspires me to be the best me.
So, I figured the best way to spread some of that inspiration around was to create a listicle of my top 5 favorite sports docs to date. There are probably a couple in here that you’ve either seen or heard about by now, but there may also be one or two that you had no idea even existed. Either way, if you feel as strongly about sports as I do, you should definitely check out these awesome documentaries.
Let’s kick it off!
I’ve always been a Vince Carter fan. Not just because we have the same, but because I liked his style, dunking ability and what he brought to the game. That’s why I was so excited when they finally released his documentary in 2017. The Carter Effect shows us how Vince Carter (aka. Vinsanity, aka. Air Canada) brought basketball to the city of Toronto in the late 90s, early 2000s. This was when Toronto/Canada wasn’t known for their basketball, but rather for their hockey. The Raptors were a new team at the time and didn’t have a ton of support or respect in the NBA. That all changed in 1998 when they drafted a young, talented prospect from North Carolina named Vince Carter.
I love this doc because it shows not only how Carter revolutionized the game, but made basketball just as popular as hockey in the city of Toronto and Canada as a whole. If you love basketball (or sports in general) and want to see how one man can make the difference for an entire team and city, I highly recommend that you watch The Carter Effect.
Whether it was football, baseball, or anything that required sheer athleticism, Bo Jackson let his presence be known with every play, hit and catch he made. As a die-hard football fan, even I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Bo Jackson. All I knew was that he was faster and stronger than most of the guys he came up against, which I gathered from watching numerous highlights over the years. But I never bothered to look further than his football career. Heck, I didn’t even know he played baseball until I saw this doc.
You Don’t Know Bo was first released in 2010 and ever since I saw it, I’ve found myself comparing players in today’s league to what I saw from Bo in this documentary. The story follows Bo through his illustrious career as both a football player and baseball player It even details some mind-blowing accounts of people who claimed to have witnessed him do things off the field that sound like they came from right out of a comic book. So, if you’re looking for a sports documentary that has a real ‘wow’ factor to it, I suggest you give this doc a try!
3. Free solo
This was probably one of the best and most popular sports docs of 2018. I remember everyone was talking about it that year, so I had to check it out. I was hooked in the first 10 minutes. Free Solo follows the interesting, thrilling and often dangerous lifestyle of free soloist climber Alex Honnold. We follow Alex on his climbs and watch him prepare for the ultimate challenge of his life, climbing the face of the 3,000-foot Yosemite National Park rock known as El Capitan. That’s right. Climbing a 3,000-foot rock without a rope; hence...free solo.
I would compare this doc to riding a roller coaster. You’re experiencing the thrill of something totally dangerous and terrifying, but without the consequences. There’s just something about the way this doc is filmed that makes you feel like you’re right there climbing with Alex, even though you’re experiencing it from the comfort of your own couch. If you’re scared of heights or don’t have rock climbing on your bucket list (like me), I would actually recommend watching Free Solo, because this is the closest you’ll ever come to the real thing. I know that sounds weird, but you’ll understand once you see it. This doc just grabs you and doesn’t let go!
2. Be Water
I’ve always been a fan of Bruce Lee! To me, he was more than just a man (speaking in my Liam Neeson voice)! He was more like a force that had this inspiring and magnetic way of reaching out a touching whoever watched him. I was one of those people, especially as a kid. So, when I heard that a 30 for 30 documentary was coming out about his life and how he came to be, I jumped! Be Water is one of those special documentaries that sort of leaves no stone unturned. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that Lee’s life, while intriguing, seems to be clouded in a great deal of mystery.
People want to know who he was and what he had to deal with when the cameras were off and the lights went out. And thanks to Be Water, we finally have more answers than questions. This doc came out back in June and has since made quite an impact on the sports and martial arts community. If you want to see how a true legend was born, I recommend that you watch this awesome doc whenever you have the chance. Be Water, my friend!
I saved the best for last and how fitting considering the name, right? Let me start by saying that if you have yet to watch this doc, I HIGHLY recommend you get on it this weekend! The Last Dance goes beyond the court and gives us a more detailed look at one of the greatest teams in the history of basketball (or sports for that matter). And that’s coming from a Knicks fan! In the mid and late 90s, the Chicago Bulls ruled the NBA with an iron fist and the king leading the charge was the legendary Michael Jordan. While this doc presents a better look at Jordan’s life and achievements, it also introduces us to the teammates and the coaches who until now, have been overshadowed by Jordan’s reign.
Using current interviews and footage of past interviews/games, this 10 episode doc series tells the story of the 1998 season when the Chicago Bulls were on the brink of winning their sixth NBA championship. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but just know that this doc has to be one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. It will make you laugh, cry, cringe and perhaps even light your competitive fire!
Well, you’ve heard my favorites, now I want to hear about yours. Tell me which sports docs get your vote and if you’ve seen the docs listed above, let me know if you were left as inspired as I was.
Until we meet again,
Vince the Prince