Since the 2009 release of “Kings Ransom,” a documentary chronicling the infamous trade by the Edmonton Oilers of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentaries have become one of the sports world’s most anticipated television events. The documentary series includes 97 feature-length films that cover unique sports stories from all over the world, both past and present.
The five-part mini-series “O.J.: Made in America,” directed by Ezra Edelman, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2016. Now, the series returns with a star-studded lineup of five new films that are sure to garner more national attention when they air.
The next film in the series, featuring the life of NFL linebacker Junior Seau, will first debut on the streaming service ESPN+ on Thursday, September 20.
Posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015, Seau was a 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker and eight-time First-Team All-Pro selection during his NFL career. The fifth-overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft retired from football and largely remained out of the national spotlight until May 2, 2012.
At just 43 years old, the Samoan-born father of three children unexpectedly took his own life, shooting himself in the chest. Seau’s death shocked the people who knew him best, and his death began to shine a light on brain trauma and CTE-related injuries that football players are living with around the country. The film will recap Seau’s journey from humble beginnings to the top of the NFL to the aftermath of his untimely death.
“The Last Days of Knight”
Next, the long-awaited film about legendary basketball coach Bob Knight‘s 29-year reign as the man in charge of the Indiana University’s basketball dynasty will make its television debut on Thursday, November 30.
During his time at Indiana, Knight won 662 games, including 11 Big Ten Conference titles and three NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championships. The film will chronicle the fallout at the end of Knight’s career with the Hoosiers, when a CNN-led investigation uncovered why players were leaving the program amidst allegations of physical violence towards student-athletes, most of which has never been discussed publicly before.
The film premiered on ESPN+ back on April 12, 2018, but it is sure to be one of the series’ most-watched documentaries.
“42 to 1”
Debuting on December 11 on ESPN, the third film announced will chronicle the improbable victory of Buster Douglas over boxing’s undefeated World Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson.
Entering the fight on February 11, 1990, nobody had picked Buster Douglas to win. Billed as “Tyson is Back!,” the fight took place in Tokyo, Japan, and the world expected to see Tyson hand James “Buster” Douglas another loss. Despite being a 42-to-1 underdog, Douglas defied the odds and knocked out the champion in the 10th round. It remains one of the greatest upsets, not only boxing in history, but in all of sports.
The film chronicles Douglas’ mentality heading into the fight, and how the outcome changed the sport of boxing forever.
The fourth film announced doesn’t have an official name yet, but it’s going to be my personal favorite of this entire announcement when it drops on January 31, 2019.
The feature-length film will chronicle the incredible stretch of games played by two-sport athlete Deion Sanders in October 1992. In a 24-hour window, Sanders played in two Major League Baseball postseason games, as well as an NFL game, in two cities located a thousand miles apart.
The only man to play in the World Series and the Super Bowl, “Prime Time” is one of the greatest athletes to ever live, and this film will showcase just a small portion of his athletic ability.
The final film announced will be one of the 30 for 30 Shorts. One of the most popular films in this format features Joy Johnson’s journey to running 25 New York City marathons after picking up running at age 59. “Sonic Break,” though, figures to be one of the most awe-inspiring films ever released by ESPN.
The short film details the emotional drive it took Felix Baumgartner to travel 24 miles up into the Earth’s stratosphere riding on a helium-filled balloon, then skydiving back down to Earth. The feat set world records for exit altitude, vertical free fall distance and vertical speed by a human being. In addition, Baumgartner became the first person in history to break the sound barrier without the aid of a vehicle.
Don’t blink because “Sonic Break” premieres Sunday, September 23 on ESPN.