Culture of Hoops

What are the Best Basketball Documentaries to Watch After The Last Dance?


Image courtesy of Jason H. Smith/Flickr.

Netflix’s The Last Dance is one of the greatest sports documentaries in recent memory. If you haven’t watched it yet, where have you been? The compelling and captivating story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls is essential viewing, which has inspired many viewers to go on the hunt for other basketball-themed documentaries. Luckily, there are plenty out there to choose from. Here are a few of the best ones to check out.

More Than a Game

It’s a shame that More Than a Game was released way back in 2008 before the rise of streaming services, as this documentary would have made an excellent series to rival The Last Dance. Because it only lasts 105 minutes, the offering from Kristopher Belman doesn’t give viewers quite as much depth and detail as an episodic release. Still, the feature is up there with the best basketball films of all time because of its power to inspire budding players to chase their dreams and work hard to get to the top.

More Than a Game follows the journey of LeBron James, who some consider to be the greatest basketball player of all time. There’s certainly a debate to be had between LeBron James and Jordan, but with the former still doing the business for the Los Angeles Lakers, he still has time to build on his legacy. As of the 23rd of October, the California-based franchise can be backed at 4/1 in the latest NBA odds at Betway to win the NBA Championship this time out. Jordan won six championships during his career, so James needs to pick up two more titles to match his rival.

Anyone who watches basketball knows about James’s recent history, but many would love to learn more about his journey to the top of the sport. In the documentary, viewers are shown more about the NBA icon’s early days of high school basketball in Ohio, and his path to fame from there. It also features some of the Lakers star’s early teammates including Dru Joyce III and Romeo Travis.

Hoop Dreams

Even though it was released almost thirty years ago, Hoop Dreams remains as one of the definitive basketball documentaries that everyone needs to watch. The film from Steve James follows the story of two up-and-coming players of the era in Chicago, William Gates and Arthur Agee. It’s all about chasing the dream and the hard graft required to become a professional basketball player. The offering produced by Kartemquin Films premiered at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and it was a major crowd-pleaser at the event, picking up the Audience Award for Best Documentary.

After Hoop Dreams’ general release, it was met with strong critical acclaim despite its 171-minute run time. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing and it was also placed at number one on the list of 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die, a Current TV special. Hoop Dreams is an uplifting tale of the struggle to make it to the top, and it is unlikely to disappoint anyone who is enamoured with the game.

The Other Dream Team

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that basketball exists outside of North America, but there are a few countries where the sport is played to a high standard. The Other Dream Team is a fascinating watch as it leaves the familiar realms of the NBA and takes viewers on a journey to the Lithuanian basketball scene.

The film from Marius A. Markevičius is one of the most inspirational stories out there, detailing the Lithuanian national basketball team’s path to winning the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Despite having a limited release, the documentary has been hailed as one of the gems of sports documentaries. In addition to earning an approval rating of 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it was nominated for Best Documentary in 2012.

Basketball is a sport that translates well to the documentary format. Perhaps it’s down to the sheer competitiveness of the game, or the fact that anyone can fight to make it to the top. Either way, basketball and non-basketball fans alike will want to check out these titles.

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