3. Bad Boys
Stream on ESPN+ here (subscription required)
ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has a way of taking a story — oftentimes, one the viewer had little prior knowledge about — and telling it in such a way that by the time the credits roll, the viewer can’t help but think, “Wow. That’s the greatest sports story ever told.” That Bad Boys is near the top of the list of the best 30 for 30 documentaries is a testament to how ridiculously edgy and fun it is, almost as a perfect reflection of the Detroit Pistons of the ’80s themselves. Essentially, it celebrates how fun it is to be the bad guy, and it’s an absolute delight.
From Isiah Thomas‘ on-court exploits and charisma to Bill Laimbeer‘s outright villain routine to John Salley‘s humor to Joe Dumars‘ touching story about his father’s death during the 1990 NBA Finals to a normal Dennis Rodman’s early rise to prominence, Bad Boys evokes goose bumps, laughter and plenty of “holy s**t” moments as it serves up the truth behind one of the most rugged, overlooked and unwelcome mini-dynasties in NBA history.
Yet somehow, with its classic cast of characters and drop-the-mic ending, Bad Boys is a quintessential and simultaneously lighthearted look at not only those Pistons teams, but life in general during the 1980s NBA as well. Given that the Bad Boys will be featured prominently in the upcoming episodes of The Last Dance, and that this 30 for 30 sheds light on Rodman, Jordan’s biggest tormentors and how hard MJ had to work to overcome them, it’s a must-watch to satisfy the hunger pangs for quality NBA documentaries. Also, for anyone who thought NBA competition was soft back then, this one provides some much-needed education.