Last week, ESPN debuted their brand new over the top streaming service, ESPN+. In addition to the massive number of live sporting events and other content that will be offered on the platform, one of the big selling points touted by the network is that ESPN+ would be home to the complete 30 for 30 documentary film library. Sweetening the deal even more, April 12th saw a new entry into the 30 for 30 canon released exclusively on ESPN+. That film, The Last Days of Knight, looks in-depth at the investigation into famed Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight as well as his legacy before and after the incident.
The Last Days of Knight is unique is that the director telling the story also played a major role in the events. Robert Abbott, a former producer at CNN who helped break the Bobby Knight abuse scandal, serves as the film’s director and narrator for this look into Knight’s career. That perspective adds a lot to the film as we get to go through the series of events as Abbott did, experiencing what it takes to put such a story together and then seeing the side effects that come with telling the truth.
At the time that his story broke, Abbott was accused of crafting a hit piece on Knight with his report. Because of this, it would be easy to dismiss his latest film as a pursuit of that same goal or even retribution. However, there’s hardly a moment in the film that feels below the belt and the narrative sticks to the facts without trying to cast more aspersions. Sure the documentary isn’t flattering to Knight — who does not give a new interview for the film — but Abbott makes a point to speak with others who do come to Knight’s defense on occasion.
Speaking of Abbott’s intentions, something he discusses in the film is that his original reporting of the incident(s) left out much of the human story. The director attempts to atone for that fact with this film, especially in the project’s final 20 minutes or so. As a result, that last reel not only makes for an emotional conclusion but also managed to elevate the film as a whole in my mind.
As for the rest of The Last Days of Knight, I found the entire journey to be gripping. Having been relatively young and not at all concerned about sports when the events in question occurred, it was thrilling to not know exactly what was coming. I even found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the infamous tape to finally be shown. Like so many other 30 for 30s, the film takes on many other themes besides sports — in this particular case, journalism, power, and authority. The result is another winning documentary that deserves an audience, streaming or otherwise.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 The Last Days of Knight is now available exclusively on ESPN+.