TV Review – 30 for 30’s “Jeanette Lee Vs.” is a Nostalgic, Emotional Journey

Anyone who grew up in the 90s and early 2000s and turned on ESPN2 at some point, likely remembers watching the Black Widow, Jeanette Lee, running a pool table at least a few times. She was a huge star in a sport that had very few and now ESPN is looking back at her storied career and, more importantly, her life, in the new 30 for 30 documentary Jeanette Lee Vs.

As is often the case with looking back at sports stories from decades ago, there is a fair amount of nostalgia featured in this documentary. It’s certainly not the focus of this story, but it adds a level on entertainment. Looking back the old ESPN broadcasts from the 90s, you can’t help but be transported back to that time. That’s especially as you watch the Black Widow, likely the only name in pool you remember from that time, dominate the competition.

This documentary is very much a story you didn’t know you wanted to be told. Lee takes us back to her childhood and the adversity she had to overcome as she found her calling in a pool hall. We follow her incredible career and all the way up to her tragic battle with cancer today. She was always a big personality, which she used to transcend her sport, and it is on display here, both through old footage and new.

And of course her story is being as well as it possible can as ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is once again showing why it is the pinnacle of sports documentaries. Whether it’s Lee’s meteoric rise on the pool scene and then stardom beyond the sport, or the drama of her personal life and health, the story will keep you engaged throughout and have you invested in an athlete you haven’t watched in years.

This story, like so many told by 30 for 30, goes far beyond sports and becomes an incredibly emotional watch. Lee opens up about her battle with cancer since 2021 as we see her life with her children today. Hearing from her past rivals and seeing their reactions to the idea of Lee’s diagnosis is heartbreaking and powerful. This doc is likely to bring a tear to your eye as you root for Lee in her fight against cancer.

Overall, Jeanette Lee Vs. may not be a 30 for 30 you’re chomping at the bit to watch. There are much bigger stories in sports, but that’s the beauty of these kinds of documentaries. It’s about the story you didn’t even really know was there. You can’t help but become a fan of Jeanette Lee while watching this doc, even years after her playing careers is done.

Jeanette Lee Vs premieres on ESPN December 13 at 8 p.m. and will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere.