So you’ve finished The Last Dance — now what? You’re probably thinking nothing can compete with a ten-part series on arguably the greatest athlete of all-time, but we’re here to make you aware of other documentaries that can help you get your sports fix. Furthermore, you may also be running out of things to watch as many out there remain in lockdown due to Covid-19.
Whether you’re a basketball junkie with a profound appreciation for old school play, a fan of America’s favorite pastime, or into more extreme sports like Formula One racing and rock climbing, we’ve got a little something for everyone.
Magic and Bird, Foreman and Ali, Lance Armstrong, Ayrton Senna, Allen Iverson — some of the biggest names in sports history are here — so grab some popcorn, cue up the Apple TV, and dive into the best sports documentaries to watch post The Last Dance below.
Icarus unravels more like an action-thriller film than your typical documentary. The picture delves into doping in sports, introducing us to Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory. While helping Bryan Fogel conduct a series of experiments on banned performance-enhancing drugs, Rodchenkov’s well-being is threatened as he fears the Russian government is attempting to silence him for his knowledge of a state-sponsored Olympic doping program.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball
In case you didn’t know, Kurt Russell’s father, Bing Russell, started a ragtag independent baseball team in the 1970s, known as the Portland Mavericks. The team, which had no affiliation to any major league program, brought together players nobody else wanted to play five seasons in the Class A-Short Season Northwest League. Largely a family affair, The Battered Bastards of Baseball was directed by Bing’s grandsons, Chapman Way and Maclain Way, and features Kurt Russell, who played for the team and was also a vice president for the organization.
Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story
Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story finds former friends of Armstrong and fellow riders shedding light on how the seven consecutive Tour de France winner cheated the sport as well as his fans in the midst of a much larger conspiracy to steal the Tour de France. These former friends and colleagues ultimately proved to be Armstrong’s downfall, as they helped uncover one of the greatest frauds in sports history after being destroyed by the controversial athlete.
The Carter Effect
Produced by LeBron James’ Uninterrupted, The Carter Effect spotlights Vince Carter’s impact on the Toronto Raptors and the Canadian basketball scene in general, as well as pop culture, as he played seven seasons for the organization. The documentary includes archival footage of the eight-time NBA All-Star, in addition to interviews and appearances by fellow stars, former teammates, and others close to the Raptors, such as Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, David Stern, and Drake.
Senna tells the story of three-time Formula One racing champion and Brazilian hero, Ayrton Senna. Recognized as one of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula One racing, Senna was taken from the sport far too seen when he suffered a fatal car rash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the age of 34. The film, which predominantly consists of archive racetrack footage and home video clips, focuses on his illustrious career, while simultaneously highlighting a rivalry with fellow driver, Alain Prost.
The Dawn Wall
While rock climbing is certainly not a mainstream sport, those who scale mountains are as badass as any athlete around. Tommy Caldwell is one of the sport’s most praised participants, but as wild as his feats are, his story told in The Dawn Wall is even more outrageous. In short, the documentary details how Caldwell used scaling the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park to remedy heartbreak.
Iverson takes an in-depth look at one of the most polarizing players in the history of the NBA. Often criticized for bringing hip-hop culture to the forefront of the league, Allen Iverson paved the way for a generation of athletes who wanted nothing more than to express themselves freely. The film is predominantly told from AI’s point of view, documenting his rise from childhood poverty to NBA superstar.
When We Were Kings
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s “Rumble in the Jungle” comes to life in Leon Gast’s 1996 Academy Award-winner, When We Were Kings. The picture not only spotlights the historic match held in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) on October 30, 1974, but it also delves into the relationship between African Americans and the African continent during the Black Power era, featuring appearances by James Brown, Jim Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, and more.
Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals
If you’re set on a documentary that bears a striking comparison to The Last Dance, this one’s for you. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals details the complicated relationship between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, which began with the 1979 NCAA Basketball Championship Game and extended on into their Hall of Fame careers and beyond. What started off as nothing short of mutual hatred turned into a lifelong friendship as these two basketball icons simply couldn’t escape one another.
The Two Escobars
The Two Escobars has sports, crime, and politics all rolled into one riveting documentary. At the center of the story are Pablo Escobar — the richest and most powerful drug kingpin in the world — and Andres Escobar — the biggest soccer star in Colombia. Though unrelated, they will forever be tied to one another as Pablo’s drug money turned Andres’ national team into South American champions and favorites to win the 1994 World Cup. In an unforgettable World Cup match against the United States, however, Andres scored an own goal that not only cost his team a shot at the Cup but ultimately his life.
Meet the undisputed Michael Jordan of rock climbing, Alex Honnold. Not only does this fearless athlete scale some of the biggest faces in the world, but he often does so without any ropes. Honnold is the most famous free solo climber ever, meaning he climbs without ropes and other safety equipment. Free Solo documents one of the most incredible athletic accomplishments in history as Honnold attempts to free solo climb El Capitan’s 900-meter vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.
Beyond the Mat
Nontraditional sports enthusiasts, Beyond the Mat should be right up your alley. This 1999 documentary film takes a look at the lives of wrestlers outside the ring, specifically focusing on Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake Roberts, in addition to numerous aspiring wrestlers. It also spotlights the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as they were becoming increasingly popular, as well as other independent wrestlers and organizations.