What would you most want to see a 30-for-30-style documentary about? The possibilities are endless, but here are our Top 8.
Note: For most of these ideas to succeed, they would require a level of uncensored access that is rarely granted. But that’s why it’s called a wish list.
8. Off-Season in LA
Most professional athletes spend at least part of their offseason in LA. That is especially true of prominent NBA players. What if there was a documentary crew following 5 or 6 of them over the course of a single offseason? The cameras would capture their workouts, pickup games, business meetings, parties, dates, and shopping sprees. Kind of like Entourage, but real. The Kevin Durant HBO documentary (excerpted above) covered some of this ground, but a rawer version featuring multiple players would be spectacular.
7. Hakeem Olajuwon
What was his childhood like in Nigeria? What is he up to now? What goes on in these post-up game tutorials that he conducts with current NBA players? The documentary would answer all these questions, but also go back and tell the story of Hakeem’s life and (underrated) career. There could also be some big-picture stuff on how he inspired other African players to migrate to the US. He is a fascinating person with a fascinating story that hasn’t really been told.
6. Cape Cod Baseball League
There is a famous wooden bat summer league in Cape Cod for college baseball players that serves as a smorgasbord for MLB scouts. You may have even seen it depicted in the nauseating-but-watchable Freddie Prinze Jr. movie Summer Catch (check out the trailer above). The documentary would follow a group of highly ranked prospects on-and-off the field as they played, worked, and screwed their way through vacation paradise. The major problem would be convincing prospects with everything to lose to provide uncensored access, but if done with the right players, the documentary could provide a rare and honest look at them during a unique time in their lives.
5. Lynn Merritt and/or Worldwide Wes
Two of the most powerful and least well known men in basketball, they both would be great as documentary subjects. Lynn Merritt (above) is the head of player relationships and marketing at Nike basketball and a hugely influential presence in the game. When Nike’s huge stars, especially LeBron, talk about their relationship with Nike, they really mean their relationship with Merritt. The documentary would simply follow him around the world as he does his job for a set length of time (could be week, could be a year). The result would be an eye-opening look about how the levers of power actually work in the NBA.
Worldwide Wes is a more secretive figure. Officially a “consultant” at CAA, his true influence stems from his role as a basketball whisperer to countless players and coaches at every level of the sport. GQ even called him the most powerful man in sports. Very little is known about him though. How he gained so much influence and how he uses it on a day-to-day basis are still largely a mystery. The documentary would be part exposé – where did he come from, how is he so powerful, etc. – and part fly-on-the-wall observation of his current day-to-day activities. The action could shift back and forth between the two.
4. Tiger on Halloween
Simple: the truth about that night as told by Tiger, Elin, and anyone else who was there. Interviews with Tiger’s friends, Elin’s friends, other golfers, Tiger’s paramours, and a few sportswriters who have covered his career would also be interspersed throughout. An accurate reenactment of the chase/crash would also go a long way, preferably one involving real people, as opposed to this crazy (but hilarious) cartoon reenactment we found on YouTube (above).
3. Phil Ivey
Watch the 60 Minutes piece (above) on Phil Ivey and tell me you wouldn’t watch a documentary about him. Forget the background exposé stuff: he was a smart kid who really liked Poker. The true magic would be traveling with him as he goes about living an extremely rarified life. The high-stakes games with celebrities, the negotiations with casinos over playing rules, the $50,000 golf holes, the private jets, the multi-million dollar pots, and the hob-knobbing around the world would all be fun to see up close. Plus, Ivey is one of the most interesting and engaging people in public life today. It’s a can’t miss combination.
This subject is RIPE for exposé and hopefully would include hidden cameras. Does anyone really doubt that hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid every year to players and recruits in the SEC? Where are all the conclusive investigative pieces exposing it? The best way to do this documentary would be to find a booster who is either disaffected, or has an axe to grind, or just wants to be on TV, and get him to install hidden cameras in his house/office and on his person as he went about the process of paying kids off and arranging those payments with school officials and other boosters. That would give the audience a raw, never-before-seen look at the real process of recruiting. Sounds like appointment viewing.
It was recently announced that MJ and the NBA are shopping a 10-hour documentary (a la OJ: Made in America) focusing on his retirement and subsequent comeback to various networks (ESPN, HBO, etc). It will obviously be must-watch, but because Jordan is behind the project it will be quite sanitized. A fully uncensored biographical documentary would be considerably juicier. There should be interviews with gambling buddies, teammates, former sexual partners, ex-members of his entourage, media members who would be willing to talk about what they witnessed or heard about, but couldn’t print, while they were covering him, and anyone with any firsthand knowledge of his dealings with the league (and possible secret suspension) re: his gambling issues. That, combined with all the traditional hero-worship stuff that the Jordan-approved project is sure to include, would be the documentary we would most like to see.