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Seven of the Best TV Shows About Sports

sports, reality TV

The naturally dramatic world of sports has long been mined for movie plotlines, both fictional and based on real life. Who can forget the brutal realism of Raging Bull, or the saccharine underdog triumph of The Mighty Ducks? But what has been so successful on celluloid has also been a favorite genre on the small screen.

Although films seem to be the perfect vehicle to tell based-on-a-true-story sports dramas, there have been a number of top TV shows over the years too. With the advent of the streaming age, we have also seen more sports stories told over the course of a season as well.

College football is always a popular subject matter but TV companies have scoured the sports world for stories – and they have sometimes been found in the most surprising of places. Not all of the shows on our list are based on true life, but we think we have covered a wide range of sports and styles – and we haven’t even mentioned the award-winning Ted Lasso.


Let’s start off with a classic, shall we? The basics of Coach were nothing revolutionary when it came to television sitcom-making. We had the father figure, trying to be successful in his career, while also dealing with his girlfriend (and then wife) and struggling to keep a relationship going with a teenage daughter.

But, as with any sitcom that manages to stand out from the crowd, Coach was lucky enough to have the perfect put-upon dad in Craig T. Nelson – and some interesting, and occasionally hard-hitting, storylines that kept you coming back for more. Football may have taken a back seat to the family drama but millions tuned in to watch every week.

Eastbound and Down

Danny McBride had already starred in a few hit comedy films by the time Eastbound and Down came out, but it was this TV show about a former baseball pitcher forced to return to his hometown middle school to teach physical education where he really made his mark.

Just as with all the best TV shows – especially the sitcoms – Eastbound and Down is not a classic because the actual sports action was so good. It is down to the characters and their stories. The massive ego of Kenny Powers (played by McBride) is the comedic focal point at the start, but by the end of the four-season run, everyone has come to love the character.


There are millions of fans of this show that still don’t forgive Netflix for cancelling what would have been the fourth and final season after the end of the COVID pandemic. A comedy drama following the lives of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (the GLOW of the title) was as funny as it was bright and bold.

Set in a hitherto uncelebrated corner of the 1980s sports world, GLOW followed a group of female wrestlers from auditions to the ring. But the success of the show came from the stories about gender, race, and misogyny that the characters were forced to deal with. Come on Netflix, do the right thing and make a final season!

Cobra Kai

TV producers love a bit of nostalgia. So we imagine that when they were pitched the idea of bringing the main characters from the Karate Kid film series back after 30 years and seeing what had happened since, it didn’t take them too long to green-light the project.

Viewers of a certain age love that one of their favorite movies of their childhood now lives on, while newcomers have all the comedy, drama, and kick-ass karate scenes that made the films so popular in the first place. What Cobra Kai does so well, though, is edging away from the good vs. evil axis of the 1980s and updating the story of the two old adversaries having to deal with each other once again.

sports, reality TV

Last Chance U

There are actually two Last Chance U shows, one covering football and one concentrating on basketball. But the theme of the documentary series is the same – and they are so watchable – that we have lumped them both in here as a TV show about sports that you absolutely have to watch.

Rather than follow the stars of the game or even the top college athletes in the country, Last Chance U is about those kids who have fallen away for one reason or another and look to Junior College sports as a final chance to make their dreams come true of playing in the pro leagues. As much as the students’ stories are heartbreaking and engrossing, it is the coaches that are the real stars here.

Winning Time: Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

There is a period of Los Angeles Lakers history known as the Showtime era, so it seems fitting that HBO got around to making a TV show about the star players and big characters of the time. For those of you who don’t know your NBA history, we are talking about Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the dapper coach Pat Riley.

There is no denying that the plot stretches the truth at times but the 1980s were a wild time in LA and most of the stories that play out in the show are at the very least based in truth. Let’s just say that this program is not as family-friendly as the NBA might have liked, as we get to see just what basketball legends get up to on and off the court.

Friday Night Lights

We’ve possibly left the best until last. Adapted from the 2004 movie of the same name, Friday Night Lights takes the stereotypical view of football as a violent and brutal sport and flips it on its head. That’s not to say the action scenes do not make you wince now and then – but this drama took a look at what goes on off the field as well.

The Friday Night Lights of the title are the lights of the local high school football stadium in rural Texas that act as a beacon for the area on a weekly basis. The show was able to portray the lives of a tight-knit town where football is actually life itself – and how the players, coaches and townsfolk deal with that reality.

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