Looking for a fun way to spend your evening? Watch the best basketball documentaries ever – many of which you can view for free! We’ve pulled together a few of our favorites to make it easy to get started. These documentaries offer a rare chance to go behind the scenes with NBA and WNBA legends. So you can better understand the game of basketball and the players you love.
From the first short-film ever released by the WNBA covering the careers of three different pro players at vastly different stages in their careers, through to how Allen Iverson’s early days impacted his play on the court, and LeBron James’ Fab Five dominating youth team, you’re sure to find something that interests you and that helps you learn more about the game. Let’s get after it!
Discover the best basketball documentaries of all time
Explore WNBA and NBA documentaries, including movies and TV series! Our list is compiled based on our own recommendations, and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and Amazon. We’ve included the trailer for each film to give you a better feel for the content. As well as quick links to watch.
Best WNBA documentaries
Watch inspiring documentaries about incredible hoopers across college, the WNBA, and the Olympics.
1. Queen of Basketball
“I think it’s hard to watch the film, and not fall in love with Lucy’s laugh.” said director Ben Proudfoot. He’s right. And there’s so much more to love about Lusia “Lucy” Harris. Watch the Queen of Basketball documentary produced for The New York Times: Op-Docs series that debuted earlier this year and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, and you’ll see what we mean.
“Born in a small town [Minter City] in south Mississippi in 1955. Became a female basketball player. At one time, was the greatest in the United States. As a matter of fact, the New Orleans Jazz drafted Lucy – the first woman to be drafted by a men’s basketball team. I don’t know what else to say about her. She’s retired now. And living a happy life!” said Lusia confidently, and somehow equally humbly, about herself in the opening of the film that details her story.
A few short months later, Lusia died unexpectedly on January 18, 2022, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. She was 66. Her impressive legacy – and her laugh – live on.
“When I was watching the film, what I always noticed in every viewing, is that it’s also a love story about a woman’s joy. And I think there’s such a power to seeing a black woman with joy who is generous who loves her family.” reflected moderator Nana Adwoa Frimpong, during the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles’ Q&A session about the film.
2. The Women of Troy
The Women of Troy is a must-watch for basketball fans. It’s a documentary on HBO that provides an insider’s look at the University of Southern California women’s basketball team in the early eighties. Its focal point is 6’2″ megastar Cheryl Miller. In her four years at Riverside Polytechnic High School she scored 105 points in a game where the final score was 179 to 15; dunked in one game; and led her team to a 132-4 record that included 84 straight victories.
The film is a rare chance to hear directly from the team that set a new standard for women’s hoops and forever changed the game. “Every time we stepped out on the court, we showcased a level of talent that everybody wanted to be a part of. We did our part to give these kids an opportunity to pursue a dream playing professional basketball.” said Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper.
Their dynamic style of play and the team’s competitive nature helped fuel the very first Olympic women’s basketball team, and later the WNBA as well. “Our team was kind of special. We were bridge players. We laid the bridge for the league, for the WNBA to come behind, and we set a standard.” said Hall of Famer Pam McGee.
“This particular team changed basketball. The team was infused with athleticism and were fast-paced. Cheryl Miller’s story was so interesting — she was the trajectory of being the best player at the time. There are so many dramatic layers in the story.” recapped the film’s Director Alison Ellwood.
3. The 144 by ESPN is one of the best basketball documentaries
144 is a documentary about the best women hoopers in the world. “From the tears that come with fulfilling a lifelong professional goal to those that come from not being able to explain senseless violence to a young child, 144 manages to encompass it all,” shared a reviewer.
This documentary, culled from the extensive, exclusive coverage by ESPN cameras, shows what being champions is all about. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 WNBA season was played in Bradenton, Florida. There, 144 players across 12 teams spent the summer in a bubble. 144 is the inside story of what unfolded on and off the court over the tumultuous two-and-a-half-month season.
The film has been nominated for a Sports Emmy. And was the executive production debut for Los Angeles Sparks Forward and 2x All -Star Chiney Ogwumike. Chiney not only produced the doc, but also played that season!
4. 37 Words: A Title IX Story
This feature-length documentary, executive produced by Candace Parker‘s Baby Hair Productions, explores and celebrates the societal and cultural impact of Title IX. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 formally banned gender-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receives federal financial funding, including many college sports athletic programs. This enabled the booming growth of women’s college sports in the 1980s and 90s, especially basketball.
37 Words: A Title IX Story is presented through Candace’s eyes, beginning with her youth in Chicago. With the guidance of her two older brothers, Marcus and former NBA player Anthony, Candace fell in love with the game of basketball at an early age. In high school, she led Naperville Central to two state titles.
She went on to become a superstar at the University of Tennessee. Before being selected as the first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, and dominating as a legend in the WNBA. The documentary also details her iconic Olympic triumphs in Beijing and London. As well as her 2021 WNBA title with the Chicago Sky.
“Candace’s experiences matter to so many people – especially young women and girls – that look up to her, both for her great accomplishments on the court and as a leading voice in today’s basketball conversations,” said Tara August, Turner Sports’ senior vice president of talent relations and special projects. “We are proud to partner with her to tell the story of Title IX through her lens and to spotlight the importance of gender equity in sports.”
The film also features interviews with key players in sports, business, politics and entertainment, including Billie Jean King, Peyton Manning, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, that explore the evolution of our country in the 50 years since Title IX was enacted and the impact of ensuring equal opportunity in sports for everyone.
5. We are the W – best basketball documentary 2022
This WNBA short-film released by the league and executive produced by Angel McCoughtry will debut around the tip of the 2022 season on May 6. The documentary focuses on three WNBA players who are each at a different point in their basketball career timelines: Izzy Harrison of the Dallas Wings (mid-career); veteran Angel McCoughtry of the Minnesota Lynx; and Didi Richards who was a rookie last season with the New York Liberty. The documentary reveals the importance of female representation in professional sports. It also addresses the adversity the players have overcome, the complexity of a career in professional basketball, and Angel’s fight for the younger generation.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to spotlight my story on a deep level,” said Izzy “Of course, we do interviews. But this is giving people and fans insight into what my day-to-day life is. I don’t think many people know what goes into a women’s basketball career. And how complex it can be from one career to another career. That’s the beauty of this documentary. Our walks of life are totally different.”
When Tamika Catchings arrived at the University of Tennessee the stage was set. Head coach Pat Summitt had already won five national championships. Including two of them in the previous two years.
That year, 1997-98 Lady Vols made history with a perfect 39-0 record. Which was the most wins ever in women’s collegiate basketball at the time. And it capped off an unprecedented NCAA Championship three-peat.
“CATCH98” tells this team’s story through the lens of 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings – one of the greatest, and in some ways, unlikeliest to ever play the game. The film explores how Tamika’s childhood shaped her extraordinary persona and the exceptional athlete she has become.
Tamika was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
Watch here on June 23.
Best NBA documentaries
Check out some of the greatest documentaries about awesome NBA players from their youth through their time in the league.
6. Vince Carter: Legacy
“When you try to compare somebody to Vince Carter, I don’t want to hear it.” said Allen Iverson. Whether you call him ‘Vinsanity,’ ‘Air Canada,’ or ‘Half Man, Half Amazing,’ you must respect what he meant to the game, reports Sports Illustrated. This documentary explores the fantastic highs and unsettling lows of eight-time All-Star and slam dunk champion, Vince Carter. It takes us along as he looks back on his record-breaking 22-season professional basketball career. Vince was an Olympic gold medalist. And one of the handful of players to score 51 points in a single game. And he also dunked on a 7’2″ defender by literally jumping over him!
The documentary includes never-before-seen footage from his lengthy career. And exclusive interviews with NBA stars including Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Kidd. “Our mission is to partner with players through storytelling,” said Christina Norman, Head of Content at THINK450, the content and partnership engine of the National Basketball Players Association. “It was our honor to help the longest-tenured member in our history tell his story of dedication and triumph.” Added Lineage CEO Anthony Rodriguez, whose company co-EP’d, “most of the world knows Vince Carter for his highlight-reel dunks—but as Legacy reveals, the man himself and his contributions to the game encompass far more than a few iconic moments.”
7. Iverson – best basketball documentary on YouTube
“IVERSON” is a documentary by filmmaker Zatella Beatty about the story of NBA legend Allen Iverson, an 11-time NBA All-Star, who also earned the Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both football and basketball. “[This film] is the ultimate legacy of NBA legend Allen Iverson, who rose from a childhood of crushing poverty in Hampton, Virginia, to become an 11-time NBA All-Star and universally recognized icon of his sport. Off the court, his audacious rejection of conservative NBA convention and unapologetic embrace of hip hop culture sent shockwaves throughout the league and influenced an entire generation. Told largely in Iverson’s own words, the film charts the career highs and lows of one of the most distinctive and accomplished figures the sport of basketball has ever seen.” pens the Tribeca Film Festival.
When premiering “IVERSON” at the Tribeca Film Festival, executive producer and lifelong Philadelphia 76ers fan Mike Tollin introduced the film. He has been around long enough to see Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Julius Erving, and all of the Sixers’ greats, including Iverson, play for Philadelphia. He told the audience, “As a lifelong Sixers fan, I can say that Wilt won us a title, Doc won us a title, and Allen won our hearts.”
8. The Last Dance – best basketball documentary series
This documentary directed by Jason Hehir charts the rise of the 1990’s Chicago Bulls. The team was led by Michael Jordan, and was one of the most notable dynasties in sports history. The docu-series begins with flashbacks through Michael Jordan’s college and early NBA days. It also shows how Scottie Pippen rises to become one of the NBA’s best players. The series also chronicles the Bulls stiff challenges to their reign in 1997, while role player Steve Kerr makes his mark on the dynasty. Finally, with unaired footage and candid interviews it shows how exhausted, the Bulls conclude their “Last Dance” with a sixth championship.
This documentary is about why Michael Jordan was as dominant and feared as he was. And about how you build a team that can win that much penned NPR. It’s also about how even Michael could not win championships by himself. And about how team dynamics were affected by such a towering figure. Finally, it’s about the business of the NBA and the egos and whims of owners and general managers, too. “For people who wonder whether we’ll ever see sports dynasties again, there’s a great deal here to enjoy. And if nothing else, you will certainly see some tremendous dunks.” recapped one reviewer.
9. Kobe Doin’ Work
Directed by Spike Lee, this documentary follows the late Kobe Bryant over the course of one day during a game, going inside the mind of one of the NBA’s hardest-working superstars. Get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to play at a high level. Kobe granted 30 cameras total access to his life, and agreed to wear a microphone throughout the day capturing in-game, bench, and locker room conversations. Kobe shot 6 of 14 from the field, scored 20 points, and played 32 minutes. The game was a crucial game in the end of the regular season, as the Los Angeles Lakers hoped to keep first place in the Western Conference with a record of 55-25.
Spike Lee explained why he chose Kobe as the subject saying:”I’m a big basketball fan. It was obvious. He was having an MVP-type year, in which he did win the MVP. Also the Lakers looked like they were going to take it to the Finals. And I wanted them to beat the Celtics. I hate the Celtics. But the Celtics won. But I don’t think I was taking a gamble by choosing Kobe.”
10. More Than a Game
“No make-believe Hollywood script could match this once-in-a-lifetime, all-American story.” said one fan. This documentary follows NBA superstar LeBron James and four of his talented teammates through the trials and tribulations of high school basketball in Ohio and James’ journey to fame. Coached by a charismatic but inexperienced player’s father, and led by future NBA superstar LeBron James, the “Fab Five’s” improbable seven-year journey leads them from a decrepit inner-city gym to the doorstep of a national high school championship.
Follow the crew from grade school friends, to youth travel ball, to playing at St Mary’s High School, to being drafted in the NBA. Along the way, the close-knit team is repeatedly tested—both on and off the court—as LeBron’s exploding worldwide celebrity threatens to destroy everything they’ve set out to achieve together. This documentary combines a series of unforgettable one-on-one interviews with rare news footage, never-before-seen home videos, and personal family photographs to bring this heart-wrenching and wholly American story to life.
Watch the best basketball documentaries
Improve your mental and physical game by learning from the best! Watch some of the best basketball documentaries for a relaxing evening.