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10 best basketball documentaries of all time, ranked

Yes, there are other basketball documentaries besides The Last Dance. Without a doubt, Michael Jordan’s latest documentary piqued the interest of fans all over the world for similar content. Without live basketball to cheer on, basketball documentaries have recently become more popular as fans look to divert their attention elsewhere. Here are the 10 best basketball documentaries of all time, ranked. Spoiler alert: The Last Dance is definitely on the list.

10. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks

Contrary to the title, neither Reggie Miller, nor the New York Knicks actually won a title. While the title may be weird, the documentary certainly isn’t as it highlights the rivalry between the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks between 1994 and 1996. Being another story line that could be explored after The Last Dance, their games make for a fascinating documentary that covers everything from urban/rural divide between New York and Indiana, to Miller’s mind-boggling eight-points-in-nine-seconds play from 1995.

9. Bad Boys

If you enjoyed The Last Dance, then it’s also worth watching the other story lines that the documentary lightly touched upon. For this one, Bad Boys tells the story of the back-to-back NBA Champions, the Detroit Pistons during the 80s. What makes this documentary so intriguing is how a fresh narrative is put together despite the negative reputation of the squad. Particularly, snippets from Isaiah Thomas shed new light. Being one of the most controversial teams throughout history, it was either people love them or hate them. Regardless of stance, the documentary is wildly entertaining.

8. Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies

No one goes way back more than these two teams. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird have their share of the limelight. Prior to Jordan’s The Last Dance, the last series that ESPN put together was a look at the heated rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers during the 1980s. In the middle of their prime, Johnson and Bird were regarded as the league’s biggest superstars with a fitting rivalry to go along with it. The two names were responsible for bringing the league back to life by providing great entertainment for the fans. Without a doubt, the series deserves to be on your watchlist for quite a trip down memory lane. Bonus: It’s narrated by Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube too.

7. The Carter Effect

This documentary highlights Vince Carter’s sustaining career from his journey to the NBA, how he transformed the Toronto Raptors, and the road to becoming a household name. The plot mainly revolves around the Raptors struggling to find a fanbase with consistent support and how Carter’s arrival changed everything. His arrival to the Six established a strong culture in Canada. Pair all that with a production crew in LeBron James and Maverick Carter, along with featured commentary from Drake, and you have one beautifully produced film that hits home just as the man recently retired.

6. More Than a Game

If Michael Jordan is on the list, then you can expect LeBron James too. One of the more underrated films on this list, this story features LeBron’s humble beginnings, his trials with high school basketball in Akron, Ohio, and his journey to stardom. The film gives an inside look at the rocky life of LeBron and his teammates Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee and Romeo Travis from being nobodies to the talk of the town later on. Love him or hate him, this documentary is a must-watch.

5. Iverson

There’s more to A.I. besides stepping over Tyronn Lue and talking about practice. Iverson is an accurate rendition of the icon’s entire life. Before leaving his mark on the league with all the dazzling crossovers, he grew up in poverty and faced the harsh realities of a town struggling with racial tensions. The documentary highlights the controversy he faced early in his life and how he was able to turn things around before being selected as the number one pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. From that moment on, it shows his quick ascension as one of the premier talents in the league and how he impacted the culture of the NBA.

4. The Last Dance

Don’t be surprised. This documentary literally lifted the genre back to mainstream popularity. Is it the recency bias? Maybe, but Michael Jordan the Chicago Bulls sure know how to make a compelling story. The scope of this documentary is what shines the most as the first-person access and breadth of details treated fans to never before known knowledge. We all knew Jordan was cocky, but not like this. We all knew Pippen had his issues, but not like this. We all knew Rodman was crazy, but not like this. The Last Dance ultimately makes the case as one of the best documentaries of all time as one of the most eye-opening and insightful ones to date.

3. Shut Up and Dribble

This documentary was given the fitting title after a certain Fox News host controversially uttered the lines “shut up and dribble” directed at Kevin Durant and LeBron James. This mainly follows the social and political climate among athletes in America and shows how far basketball players have come since the early days of the NBA. Moreover, it even touches upon the double standards that many superstars faced and the controversial events such as Malice at the Palace, the implementation of the dress code, and how the NBA evolved into a progressive league led by voices such as LeBron James.

2. Without Bias

This documentary relives the entire timeline of Len Bias’ tragic story. He was the number two pick of the 1986 NBA Draft and was frequently regarded as the next Michael Jordan before getting drafted by the Boston Celtics. However, he suffered a tragic death due to a seizure from heavy cocaine use just two days later. This moment shook the world and became one of the biggest moments in league history.

1. Hoop Dreams

An absolute masterpiece. It’s hard to disagree with film critic Roger Ebert when he described Hoop Dreams as the best film of the 1990s. In addition, this was even infamously snubbed at the 1995 Oscars. This is because the documentary features a stunning and heartbreaking look at how basketball can be an escape from reality. It also tackles the social, racial, and class issues rampant in American life. The story revolves around teenagers Arthur Agee and William Gates as they attempt to make it in the NBA from one of the poorest areas in Chicago.