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Netflix is now more than a decade into its streaming service filled with licensed content and original programming. In lieu of getting into the business of streaming live sports, Netflix offers sports fans a wide array of choices for documentary series and scripted shows about various sports from football to racing to even competitive cheerleading (Cheer).
Browsing the Netflix library can be daunting, so we gathered a list of the 10 best sports shows you can watch right now in between your binges of anime, true crime documentaries, and your latest rewatch of Breaking Bad.
There are also plenty of excellent, standalone documentary films about sports on Netflix, including Athlete A, Team Foxcatcher, Audible, and Icarus. But we are focusing on shows that come in multiple episodes for this top 10 list.
So if you are looking to take a break from playing at one of our recommended offshore sportsbooks, read along to see which show is the right one for you.
10 Beckham (2023)
Released to critical acclaim in 2023, Beckham is a 4-part documentary series that shows the rise of David Beckham from a working-class family to becoming one of the most popular athletes on the planet. Rare, archival footage and exclusive interviews with Beckham and wife Victoria, a celebrity power couple, highlight his unique story.
9 Full Swing (2023-)
Much like how Formula 1: Drive to Survive has provided a great in-depth look at racing, Full Swing brings the same style of coverage to golf and the PGA. You get to follow top golfers Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, and more as they compete in major tournaments and deal with the drama surrounding golf in 2022 between the PGA Tour and competitor LIV Golf.
8 Ballers (2015-2019)
Now available on Netflix, this HBO original series was basically the answer to what if Entourage was set in the rich world of sports instead of acting. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson passes on his usual action flare for more comedy and drama as he plays Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL player who now manages finances for star athletes.
The supporting cast includes Rob Corddry and John David Washington (Denzel’s son), and there are plenty of athlete cameos and loose references to real-life NFL players and events from the years the show ran (2015-2019) during its run of 47 episodes.
7 Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (2020)
One of the darkest stories on athletes in the 2010s gets one of the best Netflix documentary treatments. This 3-episode feature recaps the events that led up to former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s conviction in the murder of Odin Lloyd, his potential involvement in other murders, and his subsequent suicide in prison. Archival footage highlights the facts of the case, and there is an objective look at the impact CTE may have had on Hernandez’s brain.
6 Untold (2021-)
Untold is a Netflix original documentary series that is similar to ESPN’s 30 for 30 in that it has volumes with individual films dedicated to different topics in sports. The story can be covered in one documentary film or in a series of episodes.
Some of the highlights so far include the episodes on the Malice at the Palace (fight between the NBA’s Pacers and Pistons in 2004), Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend at Notre Dame, and the rise and fall of Johnny Manziel’s football career with Texas A&M and the Cleveland Browns.
5 Formula 1: Drive to Survive (2019-)
Whether you are a racing fan or a newcomer to the sport, the slick production in this documentary series from Netflix in conjunction with Formula One provides great insight and a behind-the-scenes look at major contenders in each World Championship season going back to 2018. The series has been renewed for a 6th season that will focus on the 2023 championship season.
Some have criticized the show for manufacturing drama between different drivers, but this is the most access you’ll ever get to this sport without getting behind the wheel yourself. The pacing of the show does a great job of matching the speed and intensity of the racing.
4 Last Chance U (2016-2020)
One of Netflix’s earliest and best sports documentary series was Last Chance U, which ran for 5 seasons and featured football teams at 3 junior colleges. The athletes were often the highlight as we followed their journey as they hoped to make it back to Division I football and ultimately the pros.
The first 2 seasons follow coach Buddy Stephens at East Mississippi Community College. Seasons 3-4 shift to Independence Community College of Kansas and coach Jason Brown, who would have fit in well on Tiger King as he is quite the character. Season 5 wraps up with Laney College in Oakland, California.
In 2021, Netflix also released a spin-off series called Last Chance U: Basketball.
An NFL documentary series with Peyton Manning as executive producer, Quarterback debuted in 2023 to much success. The first season followed 3 different quarterbacks as they navigated the 2022 NFL season to varying degrees of success. Marcus Mariota (Atlanta Falcons) was benched for Desmond Ridder, Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings) had an exciting season filled with comeback wins, and Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) won Super Bowl MVP.
Game footage is interlaced with behind-the-scenes looks at the quarterback’s lives away from the field and team facilities. A new season is in the works for the 2023 season with Matthew Stafford (Los Angeles Rams) rumored to be the subject.
This was a better series to watch than HBO’s Hard Knocks has been in recent years, but one has to wonder how good it can be if the quarterback has a boring season a la Mariota rather than the more exciting years enjoyed by Cousins and Mahomes.
2 The Last Dance (2020)
This co-production between ESPN and Netflix dropped at a perfect time during the pandemic in 2020 when live sports were grounded. Now available on Netflix, you can relive the 10-episode miniseries that follows the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and their pursuit of a 6th and final NBA championship for the group of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson.
Much of this footage was never seen before, and it is expertly edited into a compelling narrative that shows how much that team went through to reach the top one last time, and you also get timeless new memes from Jordan as he reflects on his success and shows us why he was the most competitive player in the NBA.
The Last Dance will go down as one of the best sports documentaries of all time.
1 Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
While most of our top 10 has been original documentary series from Netflix, our top choice is still the best-scripted sports series of all time. Maybe you missed Friday Night Lights during its initial run on NBC in 2006-2011, but it is the best adaptation of a true story about high school football in a small Texas town. It was originally a 1990 book, then a 2004 film starring Billy Bob Thornton, but the series is even better with Kyle Chandler playing coach Eric Taylor in the role of his career.
The series was also a launching point for the acting careers of Taylor Kitsch (Waco, Lone Survivor) as fullback Tim Riggins and Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Fargo) as Landry Clarke, the best friend of new quarterback Matt Saracen, played by Zach Gifford (Midnight Mass). Saracen wins more games with miracle plays than Tim Tebow could ever pray for.
The writing gets a little loopy in the middle seasons during the writer’s strike of 2007-08, but if you’ve never seen the show before and are a fan of football and good drama, then you are in for a treat.