LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 5:  O.J. Simpson stands during sentencing at the Clark County Regional Justice Center December 5, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Simpson and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart were sentenced on 12 charges, including felony kidnapping, armed robbery and conspiracy related to a 2007 confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas hotel. (Photo by Issac Brekken-Pool/Getty Images)

OJ Simpson, ’85 Bears, Duke Lacrosse lead next round of 30 for 30s

ESPN has just announced a new installment of the acclaimed documentary series 30 for 30 with the confirmation of three new films planned for the next few months.  The headliners include the 1985 Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears (with Vince Vaughn as executive producer), the Duke lacrosse scandal from the mid-2000s, and 30 for 30’s first ever miniseries event on O.J. Simpson.

Here’s more information on each of the films from ESPN:

“The ’85 Bears,” directed by Emmy Award winner Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five”) and executive produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley, will look at perhaps the most famous football team of all-time – the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears – on the 30th anniversary of their epic triumph. The birth of Buddy Ryan’s 46 Defense, the sweet-revenge victory over the 49ers, the loss to the Dolphins that ruined their perfect season and the “Super Bowl Shuffle” that was filmed the day after, are all topics explored in this film about a group of misfits who became the toast of football.

“Fantastic Lies” will return to the night of March 13, 2006, when Duke University lacrosse players threw a team party that ended up changing lives, ruining careers, tarnishing a university’s reputation and even jeopardizing the future of the sport at the school. The film, from acclaimed director Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”), will premiere on the 10th anniversary of the party that ignited what became a national firestorm and resulted in a highly-charged legal investigation. Usually confined to the sports section, lacrosse suddenly appeared on the front pages of newspapers because of the lurid details of the case and the hot buttons that it pushed: sex, race, class, violence.

Also this year, ESPN Films will debut the group’s most ambitious project to date, “OJ: Made in America.” The five-part documentary is a miniseries event and the first episodic documentary by ESPN Films, starting a new chapter for the 30 for 30 brand. Directed by Peabody and Emmy winner Ezra Edelman, “OJ: Made in America” examines the history of race over the last several decades through the lens of OJ Simpson’s rise and fall.

Sometimes ESPN’s 30 for 30 has delved into lesser known stories in sports (often to fantastic and captivating results) but all three of these headlining films will likely be very familiar to both sports and non-sports fans alike.  It’s also interesting that at least as far as Duke lacrosse and O.J. Simpson goes, it’s some of the most controversial content that 30 for 30 has explored.  You can wager that the Duke lacrosse documentary will receive a great amount of scrutiny given how polarizing the case was.  Furthermore, the Simpson miniseries will draw close comparisons to the FX debut of American Crime Story, although they’re representing two different genres.

For what it’s worth, we know that Simpson himself won’t be involved in the 30 for 30 miniseries.

Additionally, revealed plans for an April 30 for 30 highlighting the mid-90s Orlando Magic teams with a documentary produced by teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway (which hopefully spends a lot of time on Blue Chips).  There will also be a summer film from Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio on the relationship between Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.

Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.