The Last Dance: If you like the Michael Jordan documentary, you’ll love these shows
It’s the sports documentary that has captured the imaginations of viewers around the world, but what series and films are worth watching after The Last Dance on Netflix.
Who would have thought that a documentary about a 90s Basketball star would be one of the most talked-about TV shows of 2020?
Even in the UK, the intimate and unprecedented access to Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan has captured the public’s imagination.
The story of Jordan and the Bulls' quest to win a sixth NBA title during their last season together - hence the title ‘The Last Dance’ - is fascinating, but it’s the sub-plots (Scottie Pippen’s raw deal, Dennis Rodman’s wild antics, political manoeuvring in the boardroom) and examination of Jordan’s character that has really lifted the series beyond a normal sports documentary.
But if you loved the Last Dance, what series and films should you watch next? We’ve rounded up a list of documentaries that will feed your new passion for basketball or desire for documentaries that really get under the skin of unusual individuals.
While there was some criticism that Michael Jordan’s influence in The Last Dance skewed the truth about what he was really like as a man, player and teammate, the same criticism couldn’t be levelled at Iverson.
Allan Iverson is one of the greatest innovators and most breathtaking talents to ever play Basketball. However, he never took his Rookie of the Year talents on to claim the big prize of an NBA Championship and it's his impact as a disrupter that is perhaps his greatest legacy, rather than what he achieved with a ball in his hands.
This film captures the genius of Iverson on the court but also explores the crushing poverty he climbed from and how his flaws, style and attitude off the court saw him shake up the game.
Watch Iverson now on Amazon Prime Video.
OJ: Made In America
This Oscar-winning series from Ezra Edelman got slightly lost in the UK when it was first released because it came out the same year as Cuba Gooding Jnr’s The People Vs OJ Simpson.
But whereas the OJ drama series largely focused on the story of lawyer Marcia Clark and an incredible performance of Sarah Paulson, this five-part epic documentary series zooms in on the story of OJ from sporting icon to international infamy, covering his rise and fall in breathtaking detail.
The must-watch series is currently available in full on the BBC iPlayer.
Fire in Babylon
Few sporting teams are spoken about and revered quite like the West Indies cricket team of the 1970s. Fire in Babylon shows you why and reveals the story behind the sporting revolution that transformed the West Indies into the most feared cricket team in the world for nearly two decades.
Director Stevan Riley rightly picked up awards for his story which not only captures the terrifying West Indies fast-bowling attack in full flow, but also thoughtfully lays out the evolving backdrop of Caribbean culture, politics and music.
Fire in Babylon is available to buy on Amazon Prime Video.
What is the connection between The Last Dance and this Netflix documentary about a small-town pharmacist looking for justice after the drug-related shooting of his son?
If you’re looking for more sporting action, you won’t find any here. But if you found the most revealing part of The Last Dance to be the exploration of Michael Jordan’s psychology and his unrivalled drive and determination – no matter what it cost – this series should be for you.
Star of the series Dan Schneider goes on a jaw-dropping journey as his own personal heart-breaking story becomes something much, much bigger. His inner strength and determination, despite coming under pressure from everyone around him, is truly inspiring.
Watch The Pharmacist now on Netflix.
Formula One racing feels like a rich vein for sports documentaries because the human stories and psychology of the racers feel so compelling.
This 2010 documentary, which is currently available on Netflix, follows the story of the legendary Brazilian Formula One driver Aryton Senna da Silva and focuses most of its attention on his intense rivalry with French driver Alain Prost.
Stripping away the engines and technical aspect of racing, this documentary reveals the incredible man behind the machine.
Watch Senna now on Netflix.
This film about ‘free climber’ Alex Honnold won a 2018 Academy Award and once you’ve seen it, you will understand why.
What begins as a curious story about Honnold and his desire to climb the 3,000-foot El Capitan rock face in Yosemite National Park without using ropes becomes a heart-pounding and harrowing film.
Honnold and the filmmakers risk everything to capture his treacherous mountain climbs, which culminate in his terrifying ascent of El Capitan.
Available to buy and rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Rodman: For Better or Worse
Episode three of The Last Dance focused on Jordan’s most controversial and outlandish teammate, Dennis Rodman.
One of the greatest defensive specialists in the history of basketball, but also a man with a frequently bizarre and headline-grabbing life off the court, this EPSN 30 for 30 documentary digs a little deeper into the man who has gone from winning NBA titles and dating Madonna to becoming an unofficial US ambassador to North Korea.
Watch ESPN Films: 30 for 30 on BT Sport.
Jordan Rides the Bus
If The Last Dance is the definitive story of Jordan on the basketball court, this documentary presents a little sub-plot about his brief time at the Birmingham Barons playing minor league baseball in 1994.
Anyone who was left wanting more after The Last Dance will get plenty of joy in this look at an episode in Jordan’s life which followed the death of his father and his first retirement from shooting hoops.
Watch ESPN Films: 30 for 30 on BT Sport.
Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies
Another ESPN documentary that is worth hunting down if you’re a new convert to basketball is this story of the intense rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
Before Jordan and the Bulls came rampaging along, Larry Bird and the Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers were involved in a fierce battle for supremacy.
Bird and Johnson set the bar for leadership and court domination that inspired and drove Jordan to greatness.
Watch ESPN Films: 30 for 30 on BT Sport.
No Hunger In Paradise
Football documentaries are often hit and miss. For fans of the game it’s tricky to find a subject that hasn’t previously been explored and footage that hasn’t been shown numerous times before.
This BT Sport documentary manages to find a fresh story to tell by moving away from the glories of the top level game and examining the pressures, pitfalls and problematic world of youth football.
Examining the ethics of taking young children and teasing them the possibility of untold riches, it captures for the first time the fine balance between success and failure and the incredible battle against the odds it takes to become a professional footballer.
Watch No Hunger In Paradise now on BT Sport.
Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager
This celebration of Bobby Robson takes an emotional look back at one England’s greatest ever managers.
The calibre of contributors, ranging from England legends Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne to international stars such as Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Ronaldo, showcases the influence he had on the game.
It is the footage with Gascoigne, who clearly viewed Robson like a father, and the interviews with Robson’s own family, which will really get the tears flowing.
Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager is streaming now on Netflix.
The Edge / The Test
This pair of cricket documentaries should be required viewing for anyone who still considers the sport a quaint old English pastime.
The Edge explores the psychology, the scars and the intensity that took Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower’s England team to number one in the world.
Meanwhile, the 2020 series The Test offers some balance for fans from Down Under as it follows the Australian redemption story from a shocking cheating scandal to beating England in their own backyard for the Ashes.
Both series get unprecedented access to a delightful mix of characters, who are articulate, mischievous, dysfunctional and most importantly some of the finest players to ever put on the three lions shirt or the green baggy cap.
The Test is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
The Edge is available to buy and rent on Amazon Prime Video.