Image: COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

10 Greatest TV Series About Sports To Watch Now

TV and sports have always been a perfect fit.

Games, replays, profiles, interviews all make live sports—baseball, football, basketball and more—exciting. These are all great settings for drama, too. Some of the most beloved TV shows of all time go behind the scenes, bringing to life sports and the people who play them.

Check out this list of 10 all-time favorites.

1. “Friday Night Lights”

Often at the top of every list, “Friday Night Lights” centers around a small, blue-collar Texas town with grand, and many times impossible, expectations for its top-ranked high school football team.

Follow Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his family when he becomes head football coach of the Dillon High School Panthers. Taylor’s feeling the pressure: Win the state championship or likely get fired. To make matters worse, Taylor’s star quarterback suffers a serious injury during the season’s first game.

Both Chandler and Connie Britton (Tami Taylor) turn in powerful performances as do the younger cast members. This includes Scott Porter, whose character Jason Street suffers a life-changing injury during a game, and Minka Kelly, who plays his girlfriend, Lyla, and slowly transforms from stereotypical cheerleader to Christian youth leader.

Zach Gilford excels as Matt Saracen, a quiet sophomore who’s unexpectedly forced to take over as starting quarterback after Street’s injury. Saracen’s world becomes more complicated after striking up a romance with the coach’s daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden).

Where to stream: Hulu, Starz, NBC.com, Peacock

2. “The League”

“The League” follows five friends—Peter, Ruxin, Kevin, Andre and Taco—and their win-at-all-costs exploits playing in their fantasy football league. At stake is the coveted Shiva trophy and the yearly bragging rights that go with winning it.

For anyone who’s participated in fantasy sports, you’ll feel the similarities to real-life leagues, including the trash talking and concern about collusion between other competitors. 

Katie Aselton stands out as Kevin’s wife, Jenny, who has quietly helped her husband build his team for years and desperately wants in on the men-only league. Jason Mantzoukas, who plays Ruxin’s sometimes deranged brother-in-law Rafi, is also a riot. 

Where to stream: Hulu

3. “Cobra Kai”

The show picks up more than three decades after the hit movie “The Karate Kid” left off, with Daniel LaRusso pulling a stunning upset over spoiled rich kid Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Karate Tournament.

Now down and out, Johnny (William Zabka) attempts to get his life back on track by reopening the infamous Cobra Kai dojo, where he was once the star student. Meanwhile, success has followed Daniel (Ralph Macchio), who now owns a thriving car dealership. As expected, the two clash once again. 

Not required, but a suggestion: Watch all four films of the original “Karate Kid” franchise first. The show pays homage to the movies in flashback scenes that advance plot lines.

“Cobra Kai” also does an excellent job taking on parental and teen issues, like cyberbullying, while still delivering a fair share of comedic relief.

The only thing sadly missing is the late Pat Morita, who starred as Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” films.

Where to stream: Netflix

4. “The White Shadow”

If you grew up watching “The White Shadow,” odds are it left a strong and lasting impression on you.

Ken Howard stars as Ken Reeves, a white former NBA player who takes a job coaching basketball at a predominantly black inner-city high school.

The critically acclaimed series broke new ground by fielding a predominantly black cast. “The White Shadow” also tackled controversial subjects that most shows of its time barely approached, including homosexuality, drug and alcohol use, police brutality, teacher-student affairs and sexually transmitted diseases.

Reeves, a tough, no-nonsense coach, plays mentor to his players both on and off the court. In the opening episode, he tells them, “I’m going to be leaning on you guys, and I’ll be behind you every step of the way.”

A player quips, “Yeah, like a white shadow.”

Where to stream: No streaming currently available for this title, but you can purchase the DVD on Amazon

5. “Arli$$”

Think “Jerry Maguire”—but without a conscience.

Arliss Michaels (Robert Wuhl) is a wheeler-dealer sports super agent who’ll do just about anything to land a client—or keep a client.

The show was one of the first to take on the pro sports world satirically as well as feature cameo appearances by celebrity athletes, such as Brett Favre and Barry Bonds.

The cast, which includes Sandra Oh as Michaels’ assistant Rita, and Jim Turner as ex-athlete-turned-agent Kirby Carlisle, is top-notch.

Where to stream: Hulu (requires HBO Max add-on)

6. “Pitch”

This is the story of pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), called up from the minors by the San Diego Padres—becoming MLB’s first woman player and taking on the immense pressure that goes with it. Ginny must prove she’s more than a pretty box-office draw to her coach (Dan Lauria) and teammates.

She ultimately strikes up a friendship with team captain and catcher Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). There’s obvious chemistry they try to fend off, and just as the teammates are on the verge of romance, far too soon the critically acclaimed show was cancelled after one season due to low ratings.

Where to stream: Hulu, Tubi

7. “Eastbound & Down”

There may be no single TV sports character funnier than foul-mouthed Kenny “F-ing” Powers, played magnificently by Danny McBride.

After self-destructive behavior ends the ex-MLB pitcher’s once promising career, Powers heads back to his hometown in North Carolina to take a job teaching phys ed at his old middle school. 

However, he still thinks he’s baseball royalty—and makes sure everyone, from his family to his new coworkers, knows it—all while still fantasizing that someday he’ll make it back to the Major Leagues.

Where to stream: Hulu (requires HBO Max add-on)

8. “Ballers” 

Dwayne Johnson stars as Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL star trying to reinvent himself in Miami as a financial manager of football players.

Along with Johnson, Rob Corddry and John David Washington shine—while also providing comic relief—as Strasmore’s coworker Joe and star receiver Rickey Jarett.

Like “Arli$$,” “Ballers” offers plenty of sports celebrity cameos, including NBA star Steph Curry and NFL stars Terrell Suggs and Victor Cruz.

The show follows Strasmore’s growth as he learns to have his clients’ backs, then becomes his own boss while pursuing ownership of an NFL franchise.

Where to stream: Hulu (requires HBO Max add-on)

9. “Coach”

When it comes to scripted sports TV, “Coach” ruled the ’90s.

Craig T. Nelson stars as Hayden Fox, head football coach of the fictional Minnesota State University’s Screaming Eagles.

Much of the show’s comedy comes from Fox’s dealings with his goofy, naive coaching assistants, Luther (played brilliantly by Jerry Van Dyke) and Dauber (Bill Fagerbakke).

During the final two seasons, Fox takes on bigger challenges: coaching an NFL expansion team and adopting a baby.

Where to stream: IMDb TV

10. “GLOW” 

Take a fictionalized look at the 1980s syndicated professional wrestling circuit called “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.”

Ruth Wilder (Allison Brie) is a struggling actress who auditions, along with dozens of other women, for the upstart wrestling promotion, assuming it’s a typical acting job. Tensions mount when her former best friend, Debbie (Betty Gilpin), a retired soap opera star, is recruited by GLOW’s director to join the circuit. 

“GLOW” is a fabulous throwback to the ’80s in both Los Angeles and Los Vegas. While the first season primarily focuses on the destruction and ultimate repairing of Ruth and Debbie’s friendship—as well as the GLOW actresses trying to learn wrestling moves for the first time—it moves on to deeper topics like race and gender equality.

Where to stream: Netflix

Program availability may have changed and is subject to change.