Review of New 30 for 30 Doc Survive and Advance

Sunday night, ESPN aired their latest 30 for 30 film: Survive and Advance.

It is the story of the Cinderella 1983 North Carolina State basketball team’s journey to a national championship. It is also a celebration of head coach Jim Valvano’s triumphant life as well.

Monday morning on ESPN Chicago, radio host Marc Silverman said it best: “I’m just not sure how it took so long for a 30 for 30 to be made about Jimmy V.”

Most of us already knew just how magnificent the story of NC State and Valvano is. All that was left was for the story telling to be executed as well as it deserved to be.

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Luckily for everyone, Hock Films did a phenomenal job. The film is drawing great praise pretty much everywhere you look:

Hock Films took a unique approach to the documentary. It could have been hit or miss, but it worked out perfectly.

The first shots were of star big man Lorenzo Charles’ funeral. Charles died in a car accident in 2011. One year later, many members of their team’s roster and coaching staff met up to reminisce about their fond memories of the historic team. This provided the guys at Hock Films with great footage for the documentary.

It was a nice change of pace from the normal interview style of documentaries, though separate interviews intertwined at times. Prominent interviewees were Dick Vitale and Mike Krzyzewski, plus others. While they did add great anecdotes, it was the unstaged material we saw from Dereck Wittenburg, Thurl Bailey, and Terry Gannon, plus several more, that made the documentary so tremendous.

And I bet that’s how Jimmy V would have wanted it: just ‘the guys’ sitting around, reminiscing over the good ‘ol days, bringing nothing but smiles to each other’s faces.

Here's an image of the roundtable-style discussion in the film. Credit: ESPN

Here’s an image of the roundtable-style discussion in the film. Credit: ESPN

While the majority of the film fit the tone of the former players’ lighthearted discussion about the ’83 team overcoming great obstacles, the later parts of the documentary were all about their legendary signal caller.

And as you can imagine, it was very moving.

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There was extensive footage of some of Valvano’s most touching and motivational speeches, including our favorite, his 1993 ESPY’s speech. Simply put, the filmmakers included everything you could have hoped for.

I’m no movie critic. Frankly, I’m as far from that as you can get. But having watched most of the 30 for 30’s, which as a series are so critically acclaimed, I can assure you that this is one of the best.

Jimmy V delivering his ESPY's speech

Jimmy V delivering his ESPY’s speech

Many people in the media are saying they thought it was the best of the entire series. I’m going to stick to my guns and say that The Two Escobars is still the best one, but I do think Survive and Advance is on the tier right below that. I’d put it right there with Benji, Winning Time, Run Ricky Run, June 17th, 1994, The U, and Pony Excess.

That’s purely my unprofessional opinion … but the takeaway here is that the newest 30 for 30 is definitely worth your time.

Although you may have already heard Jimmy V plea for you to “Never Give Up” time and time again on film, there’s probably still a ton about the historic team, coach, and the legacy they left behind that you can still learn. Survive and Advance is a great way to do just that.

About Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb.
Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year.
He runs a White Sox blog at and also contributes and reports for Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show.
He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.


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