If you grew up in the 90s and early 2000s, and you had any interest in the game of basketball, you most likely remember watching the And 1 Mixtapes or the reality show based on them. The best players not in the league would wow basketball fans on a weekly basis with highlights they could never find anywhere else.
Now, ESPN is revisiting those days with a new 30 for 30 documentary titled The Greatest Mixtape Ever. This new doc gives a look behind the scenes at how the And 1 Mixtapes came to be and the impact they had on not only those who helped make them, but also the game of basketball as a whole.
The 30 for 30 series has covered a wide variety of stories over the years but this one is unique. This isn’t a story from within the confines of one of the most professional sports leagues or associations, or even one surrounding a well known professional athlete. This is a story about a bunch of guys who built a reputation playing basketball on the playground and some businessmen who had an idea to monetize those reputations.
Due to that unique nature of this story, this documentary isn’t limited to voices from within the realm of basketball. This is all about hos hip hop and basketball blended together and transcended the sport, so The Greatest Mixtape Ever lets us hear from not only the guys on the tour and professional NBA stars, but also legendary musicians, athletes from other sports and even young players who are still being influenced by these mixtapes today. There’s a great mix of star power and down-to-earth voices on this documentary.
However, as unique as this story is, there isn’t exactly a lot of drama to it. There is a narrative of “these players should have been compensated better during their time on tour” but it never really comes to a head and none of the players seem to have any ill will towards those who made those decisions. And while we get to see a lot of the players and how their lives had been changed by this experience, it never really dives too deep on any one in particular to allow us to really attach to them and see how big the mixtapes were for them.
The real driving factor of this documentary is nostalgia. As someone who watched ESPN’s Streetball and poorly imitated a lot of the moves from it growing up, this doc was a lot of fun to watch. It really transports viewers back to the 90s and 2000s with the music, fashion and grainy footage on which so many of us grew up.
It also points out something that we never realized we were watching at the time though. This documentary suggests that the current state of the NBA and basketball in general has been influenced by these players and the mixtapes. Hearing from young players who look back to those mixtapes and let them influence their game today is evidence of this and seeing that impact is an unexpected treat for those who were fans of the show and how the game was being transformed.
Overall, The Greatest Mixtape Ever is far from the best 30 for 30 documentary, but it is certainly worth a watch. It’s a very different story from most others in the library and it allows viewers to see a lesser known sports story for a very different angle. It’s especially worth watching for those 90s kids who grew up dribbling a ball in their driveway and trying to imitate Hot Sauce or The Professor.
The Greatest Mixtape Ever will air on ESPN May 31 at 8 p.m. ET. The film will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere, along with the rest of the 30 for 30 library.