With most sports cancelled due to COVID-19 (we’re sorry, we know we sound like a broken record), sports fans and basketball fans in particular were quick to devour each installment of The Last Dance each week – And now that it’s over, you’re probably looking for some sports docs to watch when you finish The Last Dance.
Now that the finale’s aired, odds have been placed, bet on and money won, sports betting enthusiasts (and sports fans alike) might be looking for something else to fill that end-of-MJ-doc void — We’re here to fill that void with a list of the sports documentaries, some award winners, some old, and some new that you must watch if you’re craving some sports in your life. We promise, no matter what sport you’re a fan of, this list has something for everyone, and plenty of material to watch if you’re still in lockdown.
So breathe in, know that sports will be back soon, and breathe out — Everything better? Now, here are 10 documentaries to devour while you wait for your favorite league to return, and where you can watch them. We promise, there’s something for everybody.
Finished The Last Dance? Watch these:
Netflix: Sports Docs’ to Watch When you Finish The Last Dance
Available on Netflix, this documentary is directed by Asif Kapadia and follows the career, life and untimely death of the Brazilian Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna.
Senna is largely credited as being one of the best Formula 1 racers of all time. He won the F1 World Drivers’ Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991. Created with archival footage, much never-before-seen and from family vacations, this is the first film about Senna that had approval from his family and Formula One Management.
This film has won numerous awards: the BAFTA for Best Documentary and Best Editing, the British Independent Film Award for Best British Documentary, the Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture and the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.
Haven’t got enough Russian collusion news and happen to be a sportsfan? If this is the case, give Icarus a watch. Available on Netflix in the US, this documentary follows an American cyclist investigating a massive doping scandals in cycling, which involves a Russian scientist, Grigory Rodchenkov – the former head of Russia’s Anti-Doping Center.
Icarus won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for Documentary and a Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best Sports Documentary among other wins and nominations.
If a mad, Russian scientist and a doping scandal that doesn’t involve Lance Armstrong doesn’t do it for you, may we suggest the next title on our list?
The Carter Effect
Basketball documentaries seem to be some of the most popular, with The Carter Effect another recognizable title on this list. Released in 2017, this documentary follows Sean Menards’ other sports documentaries, The Perfect Storm, Fight Mom, and ’85: The Greatest Team in Pro Football History.
What is The Carter Effect about exactly? Exactly what it sounds like – The impact Vince Carter made during his time with the Toronto Raptors. Featuring Drake and Tracy McGrady, this documentary is a great example of how a single force can help raise an entire team (or brand – depending how you want to look at it). NBA fans might also find the Canadian-focus interesting, and how a single team and player, at that, increased the national profile of an entire sport.
The Carter Effect is available to watch on Netflix.
Amazon Prime: Sports Docs’ to Watch When you Finish The Last Dance
Arguably the most recognizable documentary on this list, Hoop Dreams follows the journey of two basketball players, from humble beginnings, to college basketball careers as they chase their dream of playing professional basketball in the NBA. The documentary was nominated for the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and won countless other awards including the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstand Directorial Achievement in Documentary, a Peabody Award and the Sundance Film Festival award for best documentary.
Hoop Dreams is available to watch or rent on Amazon Prime here.
Ali and Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes
Craving boxing? Released in 2020, and one of the ‘newer’ documentaries on this list, it’s also a little different, but should be just as interesting for fans of the legendary Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad Ali had a strong relationship with Dick Cavett, famed host of the Dick Cavett show. They had an unlikely friendship, in which the two would often debate societal issues like race and rights – Ali apparently felt ‘at home’ at Cavett’s studio, which led 14 interviews with the boxing legend.
Ali and Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes This documentary is a wonderful look into Ali’s thoughts on race, the Nation of Islam and anyone who’s a fan of Ali’s ability to verbally spar as well as he can in the boxing ring.
Showtime: Sports Docs’ to Watch When you Finish The Last Dance
Basketball County: In the Water
Perhaps this one would’ve got a bit more attention if not for The Last Dance – Premiering on May 15, Basketball County: In the Water is a documentary harks back to documentaries like Hoop Dreams, but this one is a bit different.
Based on a region rather than an individual or a team, Basketball County: In the Water is produced by Thirty Five Ventures, Kevin Durant’s production company, and focuses on George’s County, Maryland, and the many players the region has produced, like Durant himself, Quinn Cook, Jeff Green, Markelle Fultz and more.
If you’re anxious to jump on the next ‘big’ basketball documentary and craving more new basketball content since The Last Dance finished, this is the one to see.
Basketball County: In the Water is available to stream on Showtime, or with the Showtime Hulu add-on.
The Oldies: Sports Docs’ to Watch When you Finish The Last Dance
Pumping Iron was the first time the majority of people were introduced to the bodybuilding force that is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Released in 1977, the documentary captures the rivalry between Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk, anyone?) and Schwarzenegger.
Fun fact – Pumping Iron nearly went unseen. Filmed in 1975 during training periods for the IFBB Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competitions, the filmmakers ran out of money and Schwarzenegger, along with other bodybuilders featured, helped raise enough money so the film could be released. It went on to win the 1977 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Documentary.
This film did wonders to raise the profile of professional body building, and provides an insightful glimpse into a pre-Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Pumping Iron is available to rent or buy from iTunes.
If you’re looking for art house cinematograpghy and a variety of sports, Tokyo Olympiad is the documentary for you. This doc follows the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and was directed by renowned director Kon Ichikawa in 1965, who went on to win 2 BAFTA’s and a slew of other nominations. Cutting edge for 1965, this documentary truly captures the beauty of sports and competition.
Tokyo Olympiad is available to stream via the Criterion channel, here.
Sports Docs’ to Watch When you Finish The Last Dance: Bonus/Honorable Mentions
Why honorable mentions? These doc’s may be trickier to find, or inconvenient to stream outside of the US – But, if you can find ‘em, we highly recommend.
Managing England: The Impossible Job
Available to stream on BBC Two or BBC iPlayer, which might make it more difficult to find versus other titles on this list, this documentary is about the difficult job of managing the England National Football Team. It follows a number of England managers through the years, including Sven-Goran Erikkson, Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello.
Undertaker: The Last Ride
The Last Dance, The Last Ride…What’s the difference? A lot and a little. The only other episodic docu-series on this list, Undertaker: The Last Ride follows the WWE wrestler the Undertaker from his WrestleMania 33 match to the present-day.
If you want something to jump in and watch, discuss on Twitter and other social media in realtime, Undertaker: The Last Ride is on its third episode – Episode 4 will air on June 14, episode 5 will be available June 21 and are available to watch on the WWE Network.
Those are our picks for the best sports docs to watch when you finish The Last Dance – And if these don’t pique your interest, try Game of Thrones? We don’t know what to tell you, but what we do know is there are plenty of sports docs to go around while we all wait for our favorite leagues to return.