12 Great 30 For 30 Documentaries To Watch On ESPN+

O.J. Simpson in O.J.: Made In America
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There are a lot of things to love about ESPN+, including a plethora of live sports from around the world, exclusive articles from some of ESPN’s best writers, and all kinds of original programming that you can’t see anywhere else. But, as great as all of that is, the absolute best thing about the streaming service is the fact that it is home to all of the best 30 for 30 documentaries released over the years.

This massive collection of engrossing and emotional sports stories is enough to be a streaming service of its own, but it’s all included with ESPN+, which you access with the Disney Bundle. With so many great options to choose from (157 and counting), figuring out which one to watch is no easy task. Worry not, because we have put together a list of 12 great 30 for 30 documentaries right here.

O.J. Simpson in O.J.: Made in America

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O.J.: Made In America (2016)

One part O.J. Simpson biography and one part exploration of American culture in the second half of the 20th Century, O.J.: Made in America is a nearly eight-hour, five-part documentary chronicling the life and times of the Pro Football Hall of Famer and how his rise and fall showcased the best and worst the country has to offer. 

From his early days as a child up through his murder trial following the murder of Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend, a.k.a. “The Trial of the Century,” the Academy Award-winning documentary leaves no stone unturned and nothing left unsaid. At times empowering and at others unnerving, there is no denying the impact of this landmark film, much like “The Juice” himself, for better or worse.

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The 1986 Mets in Once Upon a Time In Queens

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Once Upon A Time In Queens (2021)

One of the most recent additions to the 30 for 30 documentary library is the four-part documentary Once Upon a Time in Queens, which explores the larger-than-life personalities and incredible feats of the New York Mets 1986 Championship team and the impact they made on the Big Apple throughout the decade. 

Through interviews with players, coaches, team officials, and famous New Yorkers who were swept up in the spectacle of the bombastic team, the documentary does a tremendous job of telling one of the craziest sports stories you’ll ever hear. There are tales of excess, outstanding showmanship, and pure insanity in this can’t miss baseball story.

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Ric Flair in Nature Boy

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Nature Boy (2017)

One of the best wrestling documentaries, Nature Boy takes an in-depth look at the life and times of Ric Flair, as told through extensive interviews with the man himself. This highly-emotional documentary doesn’t pull any punches in its approach to one the of the most iconic and controversial figures in professional wrestling and shows how he went from an unwanted orphan to a 16-time world champion who is instantly identifiable by many, even if they’ve never watched professional wrestling. 

Like any good sports story, there are ups and there are downs, but through it all, Nature Boy shows how Flair stayed true to himself and his persona, not matter what it took.

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Arnold Palmer in June 17, 1994

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June 17, 1994 (2010)

June 17, 1994, will forever be known as one of the busiest days in the history of sports. All on the same day, the late Arnold Palmer played his final round at 1994 U.S. Open, The FIFA World Cup kicked off for the first time ever in the United States, the New York Rangers celebrated their Stanley Cup finals win with a parade on Broadway, the New York Knicks hosted the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, and Ken Griffey Jr. tied Babe Ruth’s record for the most home runs before June 30 with 30 homers. Oh, and O.J. Simpson led police on one of the most memorable chases of all time. 

The documentary June 17, 1994 presents all of those events with no commentary (besides text here and there) and allows the enormity of the day to play out in spectacular fashion.

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Scott Norwood in Four Falls of Buffalo

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Four Falls Of Buffalo (2015)

In the early 1990s, the Buffalo Bills went to the Super Bowl in four consecutive seasons, only to be defeated in heartbreaking fashion each time. The 2015 30 for 30 documentary, Four Falls of Buffalo, spends a considerable amount of time breaking down each playoff run and the mishaps that led to the team becoming a sad sports anomaly. 

It is hard not to get wrapped up in the thrill of victory and agony of defeat as key players of four-time AFC Championship team still deal with impact of the losses all these years later. 

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Jimmy Johnson in Catholics vs. Convicts

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Catholics Vs. Convicts (2016)

The University of Notre Dame and University of Miami football teams (and their respective fanbases) of the mid to late 1980s couldn’t be any more opposite, both on and off the field. Released in 2016, the 30 for 30 documentary Catholics vs. Convicts plays on that rivalry as well as the birth of the titular slogan, which was created by a Notre Dame student during the middle of the heated back-and-forth between two of the most dominant college football programs. 

On top of that, the documentary explores the cultural divide between the two colleges and how those differences led to some of the greatest sports moments of the decade.

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Andres Escobar in The Two Escobars

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The Two Escobars (2010)

In terms of cultural significance (for better or worse) there are no two better known Colombian figures in the latter part of the 20th Century than soccer phenom Andrés Escobar and drug lord Pablo Escobar. 

The 2010 documentary The Two Escobars does a few things really well: it explores the rise of each of the two icons who became synonymous with their respective professions in the 1980s, as well as touches on how the two were connected. This fascinating look into the lives of the larger-than-life figures is at times awe-inspiring, while at others terribly tragic.

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Celtics/Lakers: Best Of Enemies

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Celtics/Lakers: Best Of Enemies (2017)

Historically, there is no rivalry in the NBA that comes close to the one shared by the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. That being said, it only makes sense that the two teams and their decades-long back-and-forth would be the subject of a three-part, five-hour documentary called Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies

This in-depth film, which features narration by Mark Wahlberg (during the Boston sections) and Ice Cube (during the Los Angeles sections), is an entertaining course on the shared history of the two franchises who have faced-off a record 12 times in the NBA Finals over the years, and each’s impact on the sport and culture as a whole.

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Pete Carroll in Trojan War

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Trojan War (2015)

In the early 2000s, there were few collegiate football programs that were as dominant as the University of Southern California Trojans, a team that saw multiple players win the Heisman Trophy and go on to have successful NFL careers, a 34-game winning streak, and an NCAA Championship. The 2015 documentary Trojan War explores the team’s unparalleled success as well as the program’s downfall when it was discovered that there were shady happenings going on behind the scenes. 

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Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in Long Gone Summer

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Long Gone Summer

The summer of 1998 and the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire was what Major League Baseball and its fans needed just four years removed from the disastrous players’ strike that prematurely ended the 1994 season, and led to the cancellation of the World Series. 

But, as the 2020 documentary, Long Gone Summer, exposes, the heroes of summer aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. This damning, yet highly entertaining film, explores the inescapable media circus that followed Sosa and McGwire’s attempt at breaking Roger Maris’ home run record and the fallout that came after it was learned both were taking steroids. 

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Jim Valvano in Survive and Advance

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Jim Valvano (2013)

There are few things better than a sports underdog story, and the 2013 documentary Survive and Advance is proof of that. This inspiring film follows the improbable NCAA National Championship run by the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball team and its motivational coach, the late Jimmy Valvano. 

This is one of those stories where it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been turned into a biographical movie yet simply because the team, and its coach, never gave up even when defeat was almost a given. And if you want to really see Valvano’s character, check out his emotional speech at the 1993 Espy Awards a little more than a month before he died of cancer.

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Hillsborough (2014)

On April 15, 1989, thousands of soccer fans took to Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England to attend the FA Cup semifinal match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest only to become part of one of the worst sporting tragedies of all time. 

The 2014 documentary, Hillsborough, examines the horrific event which resulted in the deaths of 97 people and injured hundreds more, and sets out to answer questions as to how it happened in the first place. Through interviews with those in attendance, the documentary does a fantastic job of putting together some of the pieces of the tragic day.

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These are some of the best 30 for 30 documentaries you can stream on ESPN+, but these aren't all of them. With more than a decade of titles touching on practically every major sport, there is a wealth of content just waiting to be explored, even if you aren't the biggest sports fan.

Philip Sledge
Content Producer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.