Just a bit of a random post here after an eternity away... Has anyone besides me been glued to the TV each time one of these "ESPN 30 For 30" documentaries airs?
Last night, "The Guru of Go" debuted and, as has become typical, it was excellent. For anyone who doesn't know the basic premise of the "30 for 30" series, here it is in a nutshell:
Last year marked the 30-year anniversary of ESPN. To commemorate, 30 different Hollywood-tier directors and producers agreed to make mini-documentaries on a subject from the past 30 years in sports. The catch was, the subject should be a story from the past 30 years that riveted and became an indelible staple in the collective sports fans' memory, but, through time, has perhaps been overlooked or forgotten about.
Give some of the best-equipped people in the world the greenlight to revisit some of the most powerful moments, achievements, teams, and athletes of my generation... In a few words-- it has not disappointed.
Tuesday night, the latest of these documentaries was "The Guru of Go", retelling the story of basketball coach Paul Westhead and his incredibly fast-paced, up-and-down the floor style of attack he employed at each of his professional stops. Specifically, this was about his time at The University of Loyola-Marymount in the late '80's to 1990, and his star player, Hank Gathers. Gathers led the nation in scoring and rebounding in the same season in 1989 (over 32 ppg and 13 rpg), but collapsed and died almost instantaneously in a conference tournament game, March 4, 1990. Loyola went on, without their star, to make a run to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament that year, capturing the nation's hearts with their spirit and determination.
And there was Gathers' best friend and teammate, Bo Kimble, shooting his first free throw after Hank's death -- of all times -- in the NCAA Tournament in a tight game, left-handed as a tribute to his fallen friend, and SWISHING it!
If you haven't paid attention to the "30 For 30" series, you're missing out. The various teams who produce them have done an incredibly outstanding job. Each has their own brand of creativity. Each puts the story together as they see fit. No 2 stories are the same, yet there has not been 1 yet I haven't cared for. It might very well be ESPN's best idea in a very long time.
I don't think they've even reached the halfway point of the 30 yet, but among the stories so far shown, these are the titles and subjects:
1. "King's Ransom"- How the Edmonton Oilers trade of superstar cornerstone and Canadian national treasure, Wayne Gretzky in 1989 to Los Angeles rocked hockey and the sportsworld, not to mention an entire nation of Canada.
2. "The Band That Wouldn't Die" - The story of the Baltimore Colts marching band that refused to pack it in and quit, even when the Colts packed it up and moved to Indianapolis in the early 1980's. They stayed together and performed until the NFL finally rewarded Baltimore with a new franchise-- the Ravens.
3. "Small Potatoes: What Happened to the USFL?" - Details the origin, existence, and ultimately quick demise of a rival professional football league in America that had promise, talent, and fun on its side... Until Donald Trump got involved.
4. "Muhammad and Larry" - Gives a never-before-seen look at the aging (38), but great Muhammad Ali preparing for another shot at the heavyweight title against Larry Holmes. The training for, and focus on each other belied the friendship that existed between the 2 on opposite ends of the career scale.
5. "Without Bias" - University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias was chosen by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Draft after his junior year of college. 2 days later, he abruptly died in a college dorm room of a cocaine overdose. The university, state, country, Boston Celtics, and Bias family react to a tragedy of unprecedented magnitude in college sports.
6. "The Legend of Jimmy The Greek" - In the 1980's there wasn't a more popular, and perhaps polarizing figure in televised sports shows than Jimmy The Greek, an "NFL Today" prognosticator who would put odds on all the weekend's games. His eventual firing, and personal and professional unraveling, signified the man's gift and curse.
7. "The U" - In the 1980's it was "All About The U". This piece highlights the in-your-face dominance of University of Miami football, and the birth of swagger. How the Hurricanes rose from virtual non-existence to kick in the door of American college football.
8. "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks"- In the 1990's, the New York Knicks had no bigger nemesis than Reggie Miller, and that included the unbeatable Michael Jordan. This story lends great depth to the unique player Miller was, and the arduous relationship between him, and Madison Square Garden.
"The Guru of Go" was #9 of the 21 more to come. Of them, are the intriguing subjects of "June 17, 1994", which centers around the day O.J. Simpson made his now-famous 'White Bronco Dash' while considered a suspect in the murder of his wife, and her friend; "Jordan Rides the Bus", about Michael Jordan's curious and unsuccessful foray into minor league baseball; and "One Night in Vegas", which tells the story of Mike Tyson's fight on Sept. 7, 1996, and the aftermath of the much-hyped event that left rap superstar Tupac Shakur dead off the Las Vegas strip.
For obvious reasons, I've found each of these to be absolutely captivating. In fact, I've saved nearly all of them and have watched most 3 or more times. However, even if you're not a sports-crazed fool, like myself, I guarantee the manner in which each story is told will win you over. The cinematic quality of each adds an invaluable touch to what would otherwise be your usual sports story.
If you've seen any of these documentaries, feel free to share your thoughts, comments, indulgences below in the "Comments" section. Even if you haven't, but want to say something-- go right ahead!
Thanks for checking in with us at Take2...