Derek J. Hernandez

30 for 30 Documentaries ESPN Should Do Next

ESPN receives a ton of criticism for a lot of their programming, but the network green-lighting the 30 for 30 documentary series has been nothing short of a godsend for serious sports fans that yearn something, ANYTHING other than the usual “shock jock” focused programming so often forced upon them from the “Mothership”.

From the tear-jerking story of Ben Wilson in Benji, to the ode of perhaps the greatest athlete in modern times, Bo Jackson, in You Don’t Know Bo, the 30 for 30 series has tugged on every human emotion while vividly telling some of the greatest sports stories of the “ESPN Era”.

We’re not sure why ESPN felt so inclined to limit the documentaries to events from 1979 to present day other than to tout the importance of their coverage to how we view sports. You would have assumed the network would have encouraged a director to present their (ESPN) very own origin story and impact on the sports universe by now, but that’s neither here nor there. There are plenty of stories to tell in the mean time.

Here’s a list of stories we at No Coast Bias would love to see receive the 30 for 30 treatment, preceded by brief descriptions of the stories that I am most interested in.

The Demise of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns

What if I told you there was a time that Mike D’antoni was seen as a visionary and offensive genius and not the Pringles Guy trying to fit square pegs in round holes out in Los Angeles? That time was when he coached the Phoenix Suns from 2003 to 2008.

They changed the game.

They changed the game.

During that time period, D’antoni was the head man of the high-octane and critically acclaimed Phoenix Suns that were dubbed the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns for their frantic pace and philosophy of getting a shot off in seven seconds or less.

The squad was thisclose to making it to the NBA Finals in ’05 and ’06, possessed the perfect trigger man for breakneck basketball in Steve Nash (the ’05 and ’06 MVP), had an “elite” core that could set the direction of their franchise for a decade, and an aesthetic, made-for-TV style that still influences the game even today.

Enter Robert Sarver.

Joe Johnson was traded as quick as the SSL era began.

The rights to Rajon Rondo (!) were traded.

Boris Diaw was given a $45 million, five-year extension.

Marcus Banks was seen as a viable back-up to Nash.

These moves were just a tip of the money-grabbing, roster-mismanaging, style-destroying iceberg that was the Robert Sarver ran Phoenix Suns. The SSL Suns arrived and vanished in what seemed like seven seconds.

The Chris Benoit Murder/Suicide –

June 17th, 1994 captured O.J. Simpson’s run from the police and how it overshadowed the opening of the World Cup, game five of the NBA Finals, Arnold Palmer’s last round in the U.S. Open, and the New York Rangers’ championship celebration.

The events that occurred almost exactly 13 years later were just as shocking to the Professional Wrestling community.



Between Friday, June 22, 2007 and Sunday, June 24, 2007, Christopher Benoit took the lives of his wife, Nancy, and their son, Daniel, before ending his own life. On June 26, 2007 WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon announced that the WWE would never mention Chris Benoit again. Just like that, one of the most respected in-ring performers of all-time had more than fallen from grace; he’d gone from wrestling virtuoso to a family-killing monster.

The immediate fallout from the incident hit the Professional Wrestling community like a Benoit headbutt from the top-rope, swift and hard. The long-term ramifications were just as impactful. Since the incident, numerous explanations for Benoit’s actions have been suggested, including brain damage, steroid use, and marital issues.

One of Benoit’s signature wrestling moves was to perform a flying headbutt off one of the top turnbuckles onto his opponent in the middle of the ring. After his death, Test results on Benoit’s brain showed that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a form of brain damage that includes depression, cognitive impairment, dementia, Parkinsonism and erratic behavior as symptoms. Although the events that lead to the horrendous events the week of June 22, 2007 are mostly unknown, there’s no doubt Benoit’s high-impact wrestling style and steroid use played a pivotal role in the in the Chris and Nancy’s everyday life.

There’s also the issue of how professional fans should remember him or even bring up his name, for that matter. “The Canadian Crippler” was surely one of the best to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots, but how does one go about mentioning him in such debates? Should the then (and now) surreal ending to Wrestlemania 20 completely forgotten from wrestling lore? How come O.J. Simpson is still very much included in any “Best of” countdown list today, but Benoit is not?

A 30 for 30 documentary titled June 26, 2007 detailing the rise and fall of Benoit and the fallout and speculation after the tragic events that faithful week in June 2012 would be riveting television.

The 94-97 Nebraska Cornhuskers Dynasty –

What if I told you that a football powerhouse compiled a 60-3 record over a five-year stretch and that was just the beginning of the story?

Believe it or not, there was actually a time when the SEC didn’t have a stranglehold on college football. That time was right after the Miami Hurricanes’ rise to prominence in the 80’s and right before the introduction of the much maligned Bowl Championship Series (BCS) selection system.

From 1994 to 1997, the Tom Osborne led Cornhuskers compiled win after win, made as many headlines off the field as on the field, and exorcised a few demons of Husker past. By itself, chronicling a program’s incredible three national championships in five years run would make for fascinating TV, but the events preceding and during that run are perhaps even more riveting.

The journey to dominance more or less started here.

The journey to dominance more or less started here.

Before 1994, Osborne couldn’t win the “big one”. Eleven years prior to the 1995 Orange Bowl, Osborne made perhaps the gutsiest call of all-time when he decided to go for a two-point conversion rather than tie an upstart Miami Hurricanes team and more importantly, win a national championship. The Big Red would win more than their fair share of games, but year after year it was the same story. Osborne and his Cornhuskers were a well-oiled machine from the beginning of the fall up until late November, but when it was time to face the Barry Switzer-led Oklahoma Sooners or a speedy Florida school in a New Year’s Day bowl game, Nebraska was stuck in neutral. It wasn’t until Osborne and defensive coordinator Charlie McBride changed their archaic 5-2 defensive scheme and emphasized speed throughout the roster, among other things, that their luck began to change in these national spotlight games.

The story of the mid-90s Huskers has something for every type of fan out there. Are you riveted by controversy in sports? Are you a fan of human-interest pieces? This film would cover all of that and everything in between. Here are just a few of the topics the documentary could cover:

  • Lawrence Phillips’ assault charge and the media backlash from Tom Osborne’s decision to play Phillips during the national championship game
  • Nebraska’s utilization of Proposition 48 and willingness to take on “troubled” recruits
  • Brook Berringer’s tragic plane crash
  • The 1995 team’s dominance and place in college football history
  • The significance of Tom Osborne winning his first national title in the Orange Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes
  • Matt Davison’s incredible catch against Missouri in 1996 and it’s implications for the national title race that season
  • The split 1997 national championship with Michigan
  • Ending the college careers of all-time greats Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning

There’s no doubt a 30 for 30 film detailing this incredible run would be at least on par with the 2009 film “The U”. There’s so much to cover ESPN might even have to make a Tom Osborne-esque decision and go for two (episodes).

The Best of the Rest –

  • The Globalization of the NBA
  • Tiger Woods’ Domination at the 2000 U.S. Open
  • Sports Immediately After the 9/11 Tragedy
  • The 2003 NBA Draft
  • The Tim Donaghy Referee Scandal
  • The Atlanta Olympic Bombing
  • Child Prodigies in Sports
  • The Yin and Yang of the Miami Marlins (they have won two championships despite being one of the worst run, least fan-friendly organizations ever)
  • The NHL vs. ESPN – Running the NHL into Oblivion.
  • Will there ever be another Emmitt? The NFL’s Transition to a Pass-happy League.
  • Dale Earnhardt’s Death and Legacy
  • Rise and fall of Michelle Wie
  • The 1972 Miami Dolphins Quest for Perfection
  • Athletes Who Leave at the Top (i.e. John Elway, Annika Sorenstam, Barry sanders)
  • The Ultimate Goat  – Kickers Who Disappeared After Missing One High-profile Kick
  • Cleveland’s Sports Misery
  • The Failures of the 1990s Knicks

What 30 for 30 documentaries would you like to see?

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