Sports documentaries not only show what it takes to become a pro athlete, but you get an inside look at some of the best players. For basketball, there are several iconic names that you’ve heard over the years that showcase how incredible this game is.
If you want to check out some of the best basketball documentaries that explore the careers and lives of the best athletes, check out these top recommendations. From iconic names of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to inspiring stories by Kevin Laue, these are the top basketball documentaries.
12. Survive and Advance, Prime Video (2013)
Survive and Advance is part of 30 for 30, a documentary series that highlights interesting people and events in sports history. This particular episode aired in 2013 and can be found on either ESPN or Prime Video, and follows the life of Jim Valvano, a successful college basketball player, coach, and broadcaster.
Not only does the episode dive into Valvano’s career, but also takes insight from the various players that he coached to understand more of his thought process and coaching style.
11. Mr. Chibbs, Peacock (2017)
Mr. Chibbs is a 2017 documentary available on Peacock that follows NBA All-Star Kenny Anderson. This observational feature follows Anderson during the midst of a mid-life crisis, dealing with drinking issues, attempting to get a job, and starting this journey to find himself ten years post-retirement.
This film combines unseen footage with raw moments of reflection and ultimately explores the life of an athlete once their talents fade. It’s a heavy film that really dives into the lives of pro athletes after their stardom.
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10. Michael Jordan to the Max, Amazon (2000)
When talking about the best basketball documentaries, there has to be one that features the icon Michael Jordan. This 2000 documentary is only 46 minutes long but follows Michael Jordan’s basketball career, stint in baseball, and his last championship season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.
The short film is narrated by Laurence Fishburne and includes appearances from celebrities and professional athletes like Phil Jackson, Doug Collins, Bob Costas, Bill Murray and so many more.
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9. Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, Tubi (2012)
Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story is an unreal story that truly motivates you to beat the odds. The documentary follows a teenager, Kevin Laue, who pursues his dream of becoming the first one-armed man to play NCAA Division I Basketball.
The film follows his daily struggles, his hardships growing up, and needing the approval of his deceased father.
8. Kobe Doin’ Work, Amazon (2009)
Like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant is another name that needs to be talked about if you want to watch the best basketball documentaries ever. Kobe Doin’ Work is a 2009 documentary film that focuses on the professional basketball player Kobe Bryant before, during, and immediately after one game of the 2007-08 Los Angeles Lakers season against the San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant agreed to wear a microphone throughout the day to capture in-game, bench, and locker-room conversations. This really shows the lifestyle and mind of one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
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7. Without Bias, ESPN+ (2009)
Without Bias is a 2009 documentary for ESPN that follows Len Bias, a former University of Maryland basketball superstar and Boston Celtics draft pick.
The film follows the accounts of Bias’ life and proves that even after his death over 20 years ago, his name is still one that provokes powerful conversations. Interviews with teammates, friends, and family recount his heartbreaking short life and his ability to perform in basketball. This is one of the best basketball documentaries that you should add to your list.
6. Iverson, iTunes (2014)
One of the best basketball documentaries is Iverson, the 2014 documentary film that follows Allen Iverson during his rise from poverty in Hampton, Virginia to an 11-time NBA All-Star icon.
The way he embraced hip-hop off-court sent a culture shockwave that is still talked about to this day as it changed so much about the traditional game.
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6. Chi-Town, Prime Video (2018)
Chi-Town follows Keifer Sykes during his rise from Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side to his improbably shot at the NBA. The film is an exhilarating multi-year journey of his point guard’s ascent as well as his struggles with personal loss, a debilitating injury, and tragic violence.
This intimate, raw, and unique film shows behind the scenes of a true basketball champion is points out what is needed to truly make it in the game.
5. The Redeem Team, Netflix (2022)
Thanks to unprecedented Olympic footage and behind-the-scenes material, The Redeem Team follows the story of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team’s quest for gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The film also follows the previous team’s shocking performance four years earlier in Athens.
The documentary offers a fascinating view of team building and insightful interviews with athletes and coaches such as Dwayne Wade and LeBron James.
4. More Than a Game, Prime Video (2008)
Some of the best basketball documentaries include the legends of the game, like LeBron James. More Than a Game follows this NBA superstar and four of his talented teammates through the trials and tribulations of high school basketball in Ohio and James’ journey to fame.
From pre-teens to their professional career, this film captures it all and shows a new side of these athletes like never seen before.
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3. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, Max (2010)
Two names that have gone down in history as one of the best basketball players, this 2010 documentary film follows the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
This rivalry began in the 1979 NCAA Basketball Championship Game and lasted throughout their Hall of Fame careers in the NBA. Roos Greenburg, Max’s Sports President, was inspired by When the Game Was Ours by Jackie MacMullan to create this documentary.
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2. Hoop Dreams, Max (1994)
Available currently on Max, Hoop Dreams is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James. The movie follows two African-American high school students, William Gates and Arthur Agee, in Chicago as they pursue their dream of becoming professional basketball players.
Originally planned to be a 30-minute short film for PBS, the filming lasted over five years with 250 hours of footage. It’s an inspiring piece that will motivate any viewer to consistently follow your dreams, even against all odds.
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1. The Last Dance, Netflix (2020)
At our number one spot for the best basketball documentaries is The Last Dance, a 2020 TV mini-series that can be found on Netflix. Over ten episodes, this sports documentary directed by Jason Hehir revolves around the career of Michael Jordan, particularly his final season in 1997 with the Chicago Bulls.
This series shows exclusive footage from a film crew that had an all-access pass to the Bulls and interviews with NBA personalities like Jordan himself, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and Phil Jackson.
While the series received some backlash from Jordan’s former teammates on the Chicago Bulls for accuracy, it is still one documentary series you don’t want to miss if you want motivation, an inside look at his career, and inspiration.