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6 Best Basketball Documentaries to Watch this 2021

A Sixers player posing for a picture, black and white.

With basketball being one of the most popular sports in the world and at the center of popular culture, it’s not surprising that the sport is associated with the biggest celebs, the hottest music, and the next business innovations constantly — and effortlessly, we might add.

All of these lead us to this question: How did the game even get to this point? To answer that question, years and years of individuals and major events is the answer. For a better understanding of basketball’s rise, we’ve rounded up some of the best hoops documentaries that show the impact of the game on and off the court. We love the state of basketball right now, and if you don’t agree with us, you will after watching these awesome sports films.

The Last Dance (2020)

The Last Dance
9.1/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman
Created by Mike Tollin
Winner of an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary Series, The Last Dance has proven itself as one of basketball’s top films. This sports documentary follows Michael Jordan at the height of his stardom throughout the entire 1997-98 season — a season that would also be known as his last run to the NBA Finals with the Chicago Bulls. It’s got original footage, fresh stories from a number of players and coaches, and an inside look into the mind of Jordan 20 years later. The Last Dance is a documentary for new fans of the game as much as it is for lifelong fans.
'The Last Dance' exclusive trailer and footage: The untold story of Michael Jordan and the Bulls

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Hoop Dreams
pg-13 174m
Genre Documentary
Stars William Gates, Arthur Agee, Steve James
Directed by Steve James

[Released in 1994 and directed by Steve James, Hoop Dreams follows the journey of two high-school students in Chicago — Williams Gates and Arthur Agee — who are striving to achieve a career in professional basketball. There are themes of race, class, education, and American culture. Famed critic Roger Ebert gave Hoop Dreams “two thumbs up” after its initial premiere, and in 2005, the documentary was a part of the 25 annual films added by the Library of Congress to the National Film Registry./dt_media]

Iverson (2014)

Iverson
98 %
7/10
87m
Genre Documentary
Stars Allen Iverson, Tom Brokaw, Dwyane Wade
Directed by Zatella Beatty
IVERSON - Trailer for 2014 Documentary
Iverson tells the story of Allen Iverson’s rise from his impoverished hometown in Hampton, Virginia, to become the NBA’s biggest superstar. Everything from AI’s style of play to his fashion, to his swagger, has impacted the way the game is played today. Without him, the close-knit relationship between hip-hop culture and basketball would probably look completely different.

The Other Dream Team (2012)

The Other Dream Team
69 %
8.3/10
89m
Genre Documentary
Stars Greg Speirs, Jim Lampley, Bill Walton
Directed by Marius Markevicius
The Other Dream Team covers the improbable advancement of Lithuania’s national basketball team at the 1992 Summer Olympics. While the USA Dream Team went on to beat them in the semifinal and go on to win the gold medal, Lithuania’s success at the games represented a story of their new political beginnings in their split from the Soviet Union. The documentary features old footage combined with new interviews from former players, and it even accesses the current state of basketball in the Eastern European country. Oh, and you’re wondering about the trippy tye-dye jerseys, there’s a Grateful Dead connection to them — but you’ll have to watch to find out the full story.

Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC (2012)

Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC
71 %
7.4/10
90m
Genre Documentary, History
Stars Kenny Anderson, Niki Avery, Julius Erving
Directed by Bobbito Garcia, Kevin Couliau
A film festival favorite, Doin’ It In The Park is an independent documentary focusing on New York City’s pickup basketball scene in the summer. Directors Robert Garcia and Kevin Couliau follow some of the city’s hottest street ball spots while also exploring the cultural significance of this style of play. If you ever wonder what the next level of competition looks like outside of the games at your local YMCA, this provides you with the knowledge and then some
DOIN' IT IN THE PARK Official Theatrical Trailer 2013

Benji (2012)

Benji
7.5/10
79m
Genre Documentary
Directed by Coodie Simmons, Chike Ozah
There are a zillion 30 for 30 ESPN documentaries we could recommend, but the basketball film that holds the most significance might be the story of the Chicago native Ben Wilson, aka Benji. Wilson was on his way to becoming the game’s next biggest player after being named the top high-school prospect in 1984. Tragedy struck only months later, as Wilson was shot in a dispute with another individual. Wilson died at the young age of 17. Benji explores the struggles many aspiring athletes go through to this day, and it features commentary on what could’ve been if Wilson had had a full career in the NBA.

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