DAR TV: 5 Classic ESPN 30 For 30 Specials

By @TrueGodImmortal & @KingVaughnJr720

ESPN has outdone itself time and time again over the years, and while I'm not a huge fan of the network personally in terms of their rules and how they do business, content is content and ESPN excels at that. One area that ESPN excels in with content is documentaries. Since the inception of their 30 For 30 series, ESPN has been nothing short of magnificent, discussing topics like Miami University and their football culture, Michael Jordan and his baseball period, Allen Iverson and the incident that almost derailed his career, along with the infamous OJ Simpson documentary that took the world by storm. While all those are great, along with many others, I wanted to highlight 5 documentaries from the series that are timeless and classic. Which documentaries make my list? Let's take a look.

*Ric Flair: Nature Boy
(By @KingVaughnJr720)

A little more than a week ago, ESPN premiered their first 30 for 30 documentary on a professional wrestler. That wrestler was none other than 16-Time World Heavyweight Champion "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. The documentary was publicized heavily. There were interviews with Ric's family, from his first wife to his fiance, along with Charlotte Flair and David Flair. Also featured in the documentary were Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Jim Ross, Sting, and others. You also had celebrity interviews with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Michelle Beadle. The story starts off with Ric's early childhood where he was originally adopted as a child. Flair says that his parents only saw him wrestle at least twice, which tells me he had abandonment issues. Ric goes on to talk about how he dropped out of college to pursue his career in professional wrestling. Flair goes into detail about the infamous plane crash in 1975. Doctors said that he would never wrestle again, which motivated him to train even harder. When Ric was in rehab, he had the idea of being a great heel champion with blonde hair. Flair would call himself the "Nature Boy" because he was influenced by the original "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. The rest was history. Flair talks about when he won his first World Title on September 17, 1981, when he defeated Dusty Rhodes, his future long term rival. My favorite part of the documentary was when they showed the parallels between Ric Flair and his counterpart up north, Hulk Hogan. Jim Cornette said that the NWA was like the Boston Celtics, and the WWF was like the Harlem Globetrotters. I would say Hogan was more like the Los Angeles Lakers honestly. It was great to see ESPN go into detail about the contrasts between the two icons. Flair said that Hogan was into telling kids to eat their vitamins and say their prayers while he was into booze and women. However, this documentary did make Hogan look like a second wheel compared to Flair. Hulk even said that Ric was "ten times better, no brainer". That was the bombshell for me because it was surprising to hear Hogan speak so humbly and put Flair over like that. They also talk about how they never had the epic WrestleMania match that so many people wanted and how their chemistry didn't always click. Triple H definitely touched on this point as well.

Another big takeaway from this documentary was when Flair revealed that he slept with 10,000 women within at least 20 years of his career. This obviously led to turmoil within his marriage. Ric's infidelities would later come back to bite him with the strain of his relationships with his children. The story also goes into Flair's second stint leading to his retirement. This is where Shawn Michaels comes into the picture because Ric Flair was his hero growing up. HBK was straightforward when he said that Ric Flair is a myth, Richard Fleihr is the real person. He also said Ric hasn't really gotten to know himself. I don't even want to touch the TNA chapter because it was shameful and a sad way to close it out mostly. Overall, it was a great way to humanize Ric Flair for the casual fan in a way that might be deemed necessary. It was also nice to see Ric's influence on the world of wrestling and pop culture, which might be unrivaled in the business.

*Muhammad And Larry
(By @TrueGodImmortal)

-I'll be completely honest: I was uncertain if I wanted to watch this. There are times where we see our favorites in lights that we don't want to and by the time I watched this one, Ali had already passed away. I was really worried on the content of this one, but when I watched it, I was honestly engaged the entire time. I thought this documentary showcased everything that was wrong with Ali in his later years and also helped to continue expose why boxing is seen as such a dirty sport by many. Ali was essentially tempted by money and his need to still be seen as the greatest which gave us one of the most uneasy boxing matches I've ever seen occur with a sad result in the end. One thing this documentary covers is how Larry Holmes ended up being seen as a villain in the boxing world, when in reality, it was those around Ali who could possibly to blame. No one really stepped in to stop this from happening and a result, we got a bout that should have never happened. This is a look back at 1980, the mindset of the greatest boxer to ever live and everything that surrounded this situation. I was disappointed to see the circumstances that surrounded this entire match, but it was good to see the air cleared about the details and everything else you might want to know about Ali vs Holmes.

*Bad Boys: Detroit Pistons
(By @TrueGodImmortal)

-I remember this was the one that really got me invested into the 30 For 30 series. I was late to the party for multiple reasons, but when I heard they were doing a documentary on the Bad Boy Pistons, I was sold. I mean, what more could you want? Isiah? Laimbeer? Dumars? Rodman? They're all here. There's so much ground to cover with this documentary and they do an excellent job of it without question. It documents the rise of the Pistons to overtake the Celtics as the top team in the East along with their three straight Finals appearances, and their battles with the Chicago Bulls. It's structured very well, as we see the details behind the trades during their era, the becoming of Rodman as the DPOY, the back to back titles, the "us against the world" mentality that kept them close and like a family, and it ends shortly after they discuss the final chapter in the Bad Boys legacy, as they were swept by the Bulls in the Conference Finals in 1991, and refused to show sportsmanship as they walked off the court early before the game was even over. That really hurt the legacy of the Pistons in a way, but solidified their status as the Bad Boys of the NBA and in some ways, the toughest villains in the league. If you need a great documentary to watch, this 30 For 30 is definitely one that you need to see. It's got great insight and documents one of the greatest runs in NBA history.

*This Magic Moment
(By @TrueGodImmortal)

-I am of course, a huge basketball fan. Everyone knows this. What some of you might not know however, is that growing up, I was one of the biggest Penny Hardaway fans. Sure, my favorite players at the time were Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, and I had nothing but Chicago Bulls gear as a child (and now for the most part), but even I recognized how deadly the combination of Shaq and Penny were for the NBA and how they helped turn the Orlando Magic franchise around. This documentary takes a look at the circumstances that led to the iconic duo of Shaq and Penny, tackles the underlying issues they experienced with each other, which seemed motivated by jealousy in a way, and their eventual breakup that saw Shaq become a Laker and a future NBA Champion. What I loved most about this is that it showcases the mindset of NBA players and how ego can break apart the best tandems and teams. It was interesting watching the Orlando Magic discuss their 1995 Finals run, including the Nick Anderson missed free throws, but for the most part, seeing the dichotomy between Shaq and Penny was what was really the driving force of what I consider to be a classic 30 For 30, and it might be one of the most underrated on this list honestly.

*Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs The New York Knicks
(By @TrueGodImmortal)

-I chose this one for this list, because it's one of my favorite and probably the most lighthearted of them all, at least I think it is. I remember watching this one day when I was searching for something to watch on Netflix, and I instantly became intrigued by this documentary just because I remember so vividly everything that went down in this rivalry. Based around the rivalry in the playoffs in 1994 and 1995, this took us back to the days where Reggie Miller was a terror to the New York Knicks and got under their skin often. Coincidentally, this entire documentary has an underlying tone of relief once the 1994 season began because Michael Jordan had retired. That's really what drives this one to me in a way. Jordan had retired and two teams wanted Eastern Conference supremacy. The Knicks and the Pacers. This documents that power struggle that they had and of course, there is a mention of the Reggie Miller vs Spike Lee battles in the Garden, which provides a number of laughs and memories. There's nothing like reliving that epic moment where Reggie owned the Knicks in seconds to win the game, or even reliving the time when the Knicks survived the series with the Pacers to advance to the NBA Finals. One of the greatest rivalries in NBA history was the 90's Knicks vs Pacers, and I'm just glad we got to see an entire documentary about this time period, which is why I chose to close the list out with this. There are countless 30 For 30 Specials to check out but the ones selected here are essential to watch.



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