Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ESPN Films 30 for 30: Survive and Advance

I watched Survive and Advance. This is the seventh installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 Vol II. An episode guide for Vol II is here.

In 1983, the North Carolina State Wolfpack, coached by Jim Valvano, stayed alive in the postseason by winning nine do-or-die games in a row, seven of which they were losing in the final minute. The team beat Michael Jordan and three-time National Player of the Year Ralph Sampson. The unlikely squad made it to the national championship game against No. 1 Houston, aka Phi Slama Jama, a team featuring future NBA Top 50 all-time players Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. NC State was one of the biggest underdogs ever in the final game. The game is possibly the best college basketball game in history. It ends with one of the best known college basketball plays of all time.

Woven through the story of Wolfpack's march through the ACC and NCAA tournaments are two other stories. First, The team got together in 2011 to mourn the death of one of their teammates. There is footage sprinkled throughout the film of the group talking about the games, their coach and each other.

Second, Jim Valvano's story, including his battle with cancer, is a key part of the film. There are some very compelling segments, including Valvano's speech at the Espys. Valvano was a very good speaker and storyteller.

I am not a college basketball fan. While I knew some of Jim Valvano's story and have seen the last play of the championship game, the story of the NC State's run through the tournament is not one that I remember. Of the more than forty-five 30 for 30 documentaries that I have seen so far, Survive and Advance is clearly in the ten top. It is a very good film.

Survive and Advance is available on iTunes. I enjoyed the film enough that I gifted a copy of the film to Drew.

A trailer for the film is here.

Bill Simmons had a podcast with the director Jonathan Hock discussing the documentary which is a nice supplement to the film.

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