Since 2009, ESPN Films’ series 30 for 30 has been the gold standard for sports documentaries. Created by Bill Simmons, the series’ premise is to create sports documentaries in the timeframe of 1979 to current day, or the life span of ESPN. Even though Simmons is no longer with ESPN, the network will still continue to create these films. Simmons did a masterful job with the series, making each film enjoyable and informative.
To date, there have been 79 films released, with the 80th set to release on March 13, titled Fantastic Lies, which addresses the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse rape case. There are many stories and moments that audiences would love to relive and learn more about. Here are storylines that we would love to come to life in the series in the future:
Topic: Ken Griffey Jr.
Possible Title: “The Kid”
Ken Griffey Jr. hit 630 home runs in his 22-year career. Griffey was the face of baseball in the 1990s and now is the poster boy for a clean player in an era ridden with PED users. The one knock on Griffey, of course, is his constant injuries. Griffey missed a total of 621 games in his career, nearly four full seasons. Griffey finished his career with 133 less home runs than Barry Bonds. A healthier Griffey is one of the best “what ifs” in baseball history, as he had more than a decent chance of being the home run king.
Topic: Alex Rodriguez
Possible Title: “The $527 Million Dollar Fraud”
A 30 for 30 about Alex Rodriguez’s storied and controversial career should be a pretty sure thing. Rodriguez became the first player in MLB history to be suspended for a season for PED use in 2014, and admitted to steroid use for the 2001 and 2003 seasons in 2009. Rodriguez has been one of the most polarizing players in baseball since 2001. Rodriguez is known for not only his talent, but also his odd off-the-field behavior, which includes his love escapades off the field and the always awkward relationship with Derek Jeter and the Yankees fanbase. Oh, and his playoff struggles. Even with all that, the main theme of the documentary would be answering the question of how far his steroid use goes back.
Rodriguez signed the biggest contract in sports twice in his career; first in 2001, a 10-year/$252 million with the Texas Rangers, then again in 2008 with the 10-year/$275 million contract he is currently playing under with the New York Yankees. Rodriguez has had a renaissance in the latter part of his career, which we highlight here, but he can never disattach himself from his past. Rodriguez clearly has talent, but how much of it was fraudulent?
Topic: The Isiah Thomas Knicks Era
Possible Title: “From Ewing to Curry”
Isiah Thomas is one of the best players the NBA has ever seen. There is no questioning that. When it comes to the coaching and front office aspects of the game, Isiah was simply an abomination. The list of the disasters that happened to the Knicks under his regime is long: the Eddie Curry contract, the Stephen Marbury saga and the sexual harassment case. The Knicks still haven’t quite risen from the ashes after what happened during these years. The team was the laughing stock of the league and much hasn’t changed. I’m sure Knicks’ superfan Spike Lee wouldn’t mind making this film.
Topic: Phil Jackson And The Triangle Offense
Possible Title: “Zen Master”
Phil Jackson’s motivation techniques, his preparation, and connection with his players are synonymous with his eleven championship rings, all won with the triangle offense in place. The film can start with the origins of the offense, how and why Jackson chose it as the pillar to his coaching philosophy, and how he perfected it. It can then go on about how he had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, but how it was the offense that made these players elevate their overall play.
Topic: New York Baseball After 9/11
Possible Title: “Rising From The Ashes”
The horror of the September 11 attacks doesn’t need to be mentioned, but as a New Yorker, baseball became an outlet during that horrific time. The 2001 World Series may have ended not the way Yankees fans wanted, but both the Yankees and Mets lifted the city during the darkest of times. On the Yankees side, Derek Jeter became Mr. November and Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius became World Series heroes. It would bring a smile to Yankees fans if the filmmakers found the man who created the Mr. November sign on the spot and learn how he created that iconic moment. On the Mets side, you have Mike Piazza’s heart-lifting go-ahead home run at Shea Stadium, which was the first baseball game played in New York, ten days after the attacks. The most heart-warming moment would be George W. Bush’s perfect first pitch during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, where he gave the whole nation a thumbs up.
I understand a 30 for 30 Shorts was made on this, but there’s definitely two hours worth of story to tell. Here’s the short: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=13617860
Topic: Sammy Sosa & Mark McGwire Home Chase and Barry Bonds
Possible Title: “The Chase”
The summer of 1998 changed baseball. Two sluggers captured the attention of Americans as they were chasing a sacred record. The chase to beat Roger Maris’ single-season home run record of 61 gave baseball huge ratings and had people’s eyeballs glued to the TV every night. We would later learn that PEDs fueled both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, but the impact of the home run chase would be long-lasting. After covering the chase, the film can shift on how the chase made Barry Bonds think “why cant’ I do that?” Bonds broke the record three years later and became the most hated man in baseball.
Topic: The 2003 NBA Draft
Possible Title: “The Golden Draft and Darko”
You know the names: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. These four have become mega stars in the NBA and all came out of the 2003 NBA Draft. This film can take you on a quick journey of their pre-NBA careers, including LeBron’s immense high school hype, Carmelo’s championship season at Syracuse and Wade’s magical March Madness run. The film can then go deeper into the scouting and reasoning the Pistons selected Darko Milicic over three future Hall of Famers in Anthony, Wade, and Bosh. The film can then go into some interesting hypotheticals and “what ifs” if the Pistons selected either Anthony, Wade, or Bosh. Would there have ever been a “Big 3” in Miami? Does Carmelo even end up with the Knicks? Does Shaq ever get traded to the Miami Heat? All probably not.
Topic: Tiger Woods
Possible Title: “Tiger” (creative, I know)
The rise and, more importantly, the fall of Tiger Woods was the number one news story in America. Woods started as a golfing prodigy at a young age and developed into the greatest golfer on the planet. Woods was on pace to become the greatest golfer in history and when you combine his level of play with his Nike endorsement and large commercial success, Woods was one of, if not, the most popular athletes in the world. It all ended during Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 when his wife Elin Nordegren chased him out their house with a golf club. Woods was exposed as an avid cheater and later entered sex rehab. Woods later suffered from injuries and would never be the same. Woods won 14 Major Championships from 1997-2008, four shy of tying Jack Nicklaus, but would never win another after Thanksgiving weekend of 2009.
Topic: Michael Vick
Possible Title: “7”
Michael Vick helped transform the game of football. Vick took the league by storm in 2001, making highlight plays we have never seen on a football field before. Vick amazed NFL fans with his dual-threat capability and became must-watch TV due to the plays he could make with his legs, something we have never seen at the NFL level. Vick signed a record-setting ten-year/$130 million contract in 2005, but it would all come crashing down in 2007 when he was caught and sentenced to prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. In 2009, Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles gave Vick a second chance in the league and it paid off, as he once again took the league by storm. He would sign his second $100 million contract after the 2010 season. Once his tenure with the Eagles was over, he bounced around New York (Jets) and Pittsburgh as a backup, a position he will be in for the rest of his career.
Topic: Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal
Possible Title: “Match Made in Hollywood Heaven”
The NBA might not ever see a duo like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal ever again. Shaq was the most dominant force we have ever seen on a basketball court and Kobe was the most ideal shooting guard in NBA history behind Jordan. These two were Los Angeles Lakers teammates in the prime of their careers, leading the Lakers to three straight championships. Their relationship crumbled in front of our eyes as the two had to be split up, leading Shaq to be traded to the Heat, helping Wade win his first ring. The film could backtrack a little, starting with Shaq in his college and Orlando years, where his dominant reputation was born. It can then take us to Draft night in 1996 when Kobe was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 13 pick, only to be immediately traded to the Lakers. Jackson was then brought in with Shaq and the Lakers became one of the all-time teams in 2001. These two had once-in-a-generation talent, but their egos got the best of them and cut their time short.
Topic: Penn State Scandal
Possible Title: “State Penn”
This film would be uncomfortable to watch, but it is a story that must be told. Jerry Sandusky cannot be described a man, but only as a coward and a sick animal. The film would try to talk about Sandusky at minimum. It would be more about the huge cover up that occurred, from the top of the university to Joe Paterno. Penn State went from one of the top football institutions to home of the worst sports scandals in recent memory.
Topic: The Miami Heat Big 3
Possible Title: “The Decision”
The film would open up with James famously sitting in a Boys & Girls Club in Connecticut with Jim Gray, announcing to the world where he will play next, or as he said, “take his talents” to. It would then backtrack on the extreme hype the 2010 NBA Free Agent class produced, including the 24/7 coverage and Chris Broussard and his sources. It got so crazy that I remember reading a report that an order of orange “WITNESS” shirts was shipped to a store in New York, and that clearly meant LeBron was on his way to becoming a Knick. The “Big 3” of LeBron, Bosh, and Wade was born and would lead the Heat to four straight Finals appearances, and LeBron’s coveted first ring. LeBron finished business in Miami, comparing it to going away to college, something he never experienced, and went back home to Cleveland. Will he ever win again? We don’t know, but his decision to sign with Miami on live television changed how we view LeBron forever.
Topic: Tim Tebow
Possible Title: “Tebow-Mania”
Tim Tebow is one of the greatest college football players ever. There is little debate to that. With a Heisman Trophy and two national championships under his belt, Tebow was a college football phenomenon by the likes we have never experienced. Everyone rooted for him, with his school-boy image and all-heart mentality. It worked perfectly under Urban Meyer at the University of Florida, but once Tebow entered the NFL, he did not reach the same success. His good-boy image became more annoying than accepting in the NFL, and his unorthodox throwing style was dissected by anyone with a football opinion. He became a cult hero in Denver with his epic win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an overtime win in the playoffs, but it would all come to an end the next week in Foxborough to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
The Broncos took the chance on Peyton Manning, coming off neck surgery, and shipped Tebow to the New York Jets. Tebow and incumbent Jets starter Mark Sanchez would then take over ESPN and all media coverage. The coverage became suffocating and Tebow-Mania had to end. Tebow ended his career with training camp stints in New England and Philadelphia, and later on became a member of the media himself, joining ESPN’s college football coverage. There was no more talked about player than Tim Tebow during the height of his popularity as “Tebowing” became a national craze. Tebow was one of the most polarizing people in America.