I enjoy watching sports – but I find my enjoyment and investment goes up when I care about the athletes. It’s why I love the Olympics so much. The broadcasters do such a great job of giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the athlete’s lives outside the realm of sports. These features inspire us and make celebrating their victories feel so profound.
It’s also why I love spots documentaries. It’s not just about the win or lose – it’s about what the athletes were feeling when they won or lost.
This past week, CBC Gem started streaming a series called Anyone’s Game.
It’s a brilliant look at one of the best high school basketball programs in North America, Orangeville Prep. You get to know the players, the coaches, and the team dynamics as they progress through their season. This program has had a few very successful alumni – including Jamal Murray.
It’s also an interesting look at Canadian basketball specifically. When the Raptors were coming up, they were a joke. No one thought we’d win a championship. Then this week, Basketball Canada got fined $227k for skipping a tournament in November. It’s very clear, that Canadian basketball is not well respected. This show and this team is trying to change that.
It frustrates me because I know if this was an American team, or an American production, this would not be a small show – it would be a MAJOR smash. I’m really hopeful it gets the recognition it deserves because this show, like this team, can compete with the best of them.
So today, I’m going to put it on the same page as some of my favourite spots documentaries and give you a list of shows in the same genre that I love. If you love any of these watch Anyone’s Game. Or if you have already watched Anyone’s Game and loved it – check out these shows and docs.
We follow a season of the Navarro Cheerleading team as they prepare for and compete at the National Cheerleading Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. I knew very little about Cheerleading before this show, and now I have a deep respect for the athletes who do this. It is crazy. This show was extremely well done (shoutout to the sound department for capturing all the sickening clashes) and it won multiple awards including Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program at the 2020 Emmys. People were obsessed with this show but unfortunately, the show has had a fall from grace in recent months due to one of the athletes arrest.
The Last Dance
An intimate look at Michael Jordan and his final season with the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls team. As a child of the 90s, I really only knew Michael Jordan as that guy from Space Jam. I obviously knew he was a legend in basketball but I didn’t really know his story. Well – after watching this I was invested. I learned a lot about him, the sport, and the NBA in general – it was a fantastic series and I would recommend it to anyone. I’m expecting it to win a lot of Emmys this year
Last Chance U
Any show about kids who are chasing their dreams I’m here for. This docu-series follows various Jr Colleges football teams, as the players try to prove themselves to play in Division 1. I was very into the first seasons, but drifted out as it went on. There are five season to watch.
Inside the Bubble
If you are a hockey fan – the Inside the Bubble series from the NHL is probably already on your radar. It’s an inside look at how the bubble operated for the 2020 Stanley Cup champions. A lot of people loved this and I know some people who watched this and then got really into hockey because they got invested into the players.
This is a two part series that looked into Tiger Wood’s rise, fall and rise again. It was excellent. I’m not a fan of Tiger Woods but I really liked this. Highly recommend checking it out.
This is one of my all time favourite documentaries full stop. It starts out being a documentary about enhancement drug use in cycling – but turns into an exposé on Russia’s state sponsored doping. This documentary and it’s findings is the reason Russian athletes are not currently able to compete under the Russian flag at the Olympics. It’s an outstanding story and an absolutely wild ride. It deserved the Oscar it won in 2018. Just incredible.
Another Oscar winner – this documentary about Alex Honnold’s attempt to “free solo” climb El Capitan is amazing. The athletic achievement is remarkable, but it’s the production that makes it outstanding. It is a breathtakingly beautiful film. Director Jimmy Chin and his team did an incredible job. If you’ve already seen this doc, you must watch the making of.
The Heart of the Game
This was a 2005 sports documentary film about a girls high school basketball team in Seattle – the Roosevelt Roughriders – over the course of six seasons. It is one of those docs that make you say “you can’t write this”. The doc focuses in on Darnellia Russell – a star player who has an unexpected but remarkable personal journey over those six years. I like this doc for the sports, but I love this doc for the conversion around women in sports. Huge fan.
A look into the USA gymnastics sexual abuse scandal and it’s impact on the athletes. It is powerful, heartbreaking, and an a important watch. It’s not the best doc on this list – but it’s an important one.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young
A movie about running that makes you think, “I should run more”, but also “these people are crazy”. It’s a really fun movie about extreme running. It’s wild.
I always rave about this short doc. Produced and Directed by one of my mentors, Alexandra Lazarowich. This short doc won her the Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing at Sundance in 2019. It is an incredible film about a fan – Indian Relay. It’s on youtube and easy to find.