The latest film in ESPN’s 30 for 30 project was as entertaining as most of the other projects. It focused on Jimmy Connors’ improbable run to the semifinals of the 1991 U.S. Open and included people like Chris Fowler expressing amazement at the fact Connors is still sort of a jerk.
I’ve enjoyed most of the 30 for 30 films, although certainly not all of them. But the subjects are almost always ones that make you think, oh, yeah, it’s about time someone did a documentary on that event or person or game, and they’re usually well-done. Still, some subjects remain hidden, waiting for their chance to be introduced to a national audience with the intro, “What if I told you…”
Here, some movies I’d like to see produced.
THE 1985 NBA DRAFT
I want draft experts interviewed. I want sociologists interviewed. And this film has nothing to do with the 1985 lottery, the first lottery, long a subject of conspiracy theory rumors because the Knicks won the right to draft Patrick Ewing. No, this is about the actual draft and everything that happened after New York made the Georgetown center the No. 1 pick. Picks 3, 5 and 6: Benoit Benjamin, Jon Koncak and Joe Kleine. Chris Mullin went 7th, Karl Malone 13th. But the true magic happened at picks 15-17 when tall, pale stiffs Blair Rasmussen, Bill Wennington and Uwe Blab were taken. Most remarkably, the Mavericks picked Wennington and Blab back-to-back, which is almost a cry for a Congressional investigation into not only the GM’s competence, but also race relations in the entire state of Texas. By the way, Joe Dumars went 18th. This would be like the 30 for 30 about the 1983 NFL draft — the Elway and Marino draft — but better.
FINAL MOMENTS OF 1989 NCAA TITLE GAME
When people talk about the worst calls in the history of sports, this one seems to get underrated, even though it decided a national title.
Michigan trailed by one when Rumeal Robinson benefited from a phantom foul call against Seton Hall. He hit both free throws and the Wolverines had their title. A 30 for 30 on this would maybe reveal a second camera angle that shows a foul being committed – or even a near-foul. Or maybe it includes interviews with bookies who benefited from the ending. It’s a stunning call and any 30 for 30 would also retroactively recreate Twitter’s reaction to it if the same thing happened today.
ERIC FOX HOME RUN
From Wikipedia: Fox’s career highlight may have come on July 29, 1992, when Fox hit a game-winning, three-run home run against the Minnesota Twins. That win put the A’s into a first-place tie with the Twins and catapulted them towards the American League West Division title that season. … Many Twins fans blame that game and his home run towards (sic? sic) the downfall of the franchise through the rest of the 1990s.
And it’s true, one little home run seemed to derail a franchise that was the envy of MLB at the time. Things were pretty much terrible — bad records, Hrbek retiring, Kirby’s retirement — until 2001. One home run in a regular season game ruined a franchise. That’s a documentary — interview Fox, Aguilera, Tom Kelly, Dan Barreiro.
The 1994 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
You think that nothing really stands out about these Wolves. They were bad — 20-62 — but a lot of Timberwolves teams have been bad. Most, in fact. They weren’t very lovable — J.R. Rider and Christian Laettner were the leading scorers — but a lot of Timberwolves teams have been unlovable, although having the adorable Ricky Rubio on the roster means those days are done for awhile. Here’s what’s remarkable and demands an hour or 90-minute production from ESPN, Bill Simmons and a talented filmmaker with Minnesota roots (Coens?). The Wolves lost to the 13-69 Dallas Mavericks a remarkable five times. Those Mavericks might have been the worst team in NBA history, even if they didn’t have the worst record in league history. Dallas lost its first three games of the year and then beat the Wolves. The Mavericks then lost their next 20 games before beating…the Timberwolves. After that? They lost 16 in a row. On January 27, 1994 the Mavericks had played for three months and half of their games. They had a record of 2-39. Both victories were against Minnesota. At one stage Dallas improved to 5-42 — and FOUR of their wins were over Minnesota (the last game of the season ended with Dallas beating the Wolves for a fifth time). This would make a great documentary, yes?
1985 NBA FINALS
Am I confident Simmons would greenlight a film that focuses on the Lakers beating the Celtics? No. Especially because it would focus on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who put on one of the great performances in NBA history in leading the Lakers to a 4-2 victory over Boston. In the three Magic-Bird Finals showdowns, the ’85 Series isn’t remembered as much as the ones in 1984 and 87. But Kareem’s performance deserves an hour-long homage. Think of how much praise Tim Duncan rightly got for his effort in the 2013 Finals, when, at 37, he averaged 18.9 points and 12 boards. But that was nothing compared to Kareem in ’85, when, at the age of 38, he averaged 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists against the best frontcourt in NBA history. Most memorably, he responded after Boston humiliated the Lakers 148-114 in the opening game. Pat Riley spent the film session destroying Kareem in front of the team, but Kareem sat in front and took it. Then, before Game 2, he asked Riley if his dad could ride on the team bus and Riley agreed. That night in the Boston Garden Kareem went for 30 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists and the Lakers were on their way to the title. Okay, so maybe this is just one I finance on Kickstarter.
BARRY SWITZER AS COWBOYS COACH
We need a movie about those four years to prove they really happened. Maybe the Jimmy Johnson-Jerry Jones relationship couldn’t last. Their divorce was probably inevitable. It was perhaps time to end in 1994. That doesn’t make the hiring of Switzer any less bizarre. Switzer had never coached in the NFL and had last been on a sideline in 1988 and left scandal in his wake. And how good were the 1995 Cowboys and all those Dallas teams of that era? They won a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer as their coach.
Any chance any of these get made? I’m guessing the Switzer one has a better shot than the 1985 NBA Draft. Still, there’s always a chance that one day we’ll hear the 30 for 30 narrator say, “What if I told you, Blair Rasmussen wasn’t the worst center taken in a draft?” I’ll watch.