For basketball fans starved of live action due to the coronavirus outbreak, the wait is almost over. No, live basketball isn’t coming back anytime soon but ESPN has reportedly agreed to move forward the release date of its highly-awaited documentary series on Michael Jordan‘s final season with the Chicago Bulls.
Considering the current circumstances, that is the next best thing to live NBA games.
The Last Dance was originally scheduled for release in June, but with the NBA season suspended indefinitely and growing social media pressure from a number of NBA players including LeBron James, ESPN has finally relented.
ESPN and ABC have now agreed to air the 10-part series from April 19.
Here’s all you need to know.
What is The Last Dance?
ESPN’s 10-part documentary chronicles the Chicago Bulls 1997-98 season, which marked Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson’s final campaign with the franchise. Before the season began, ESPN was granted unprecedented access with cameras following the team in the locker room, practice facility and on every trip the Bulls made that year. While this kind of access-all-areas approach has been normalized in the NFL by shows such as Hard Knocks and Amazon’s All or Nothing series, it remains relatively unused in the NBA and was almost unheard of 22 years ago.
Over 20 years on, the footage will finally see the light of day and it’s been complemented by a series of interviews conducted over the last 12 months with Jordan, Jackson and members of the Bulls team including Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver also features on the show as does former U.S. President and Chicago native Barack Obama.
When does The Last Dance begin?
The Last Dance was originally scheduled to begin in June but ESPN has agreed to bring the release date forward and the documentary will air on April 19 instead.
Where can I watch The Last Dance?
The documentary will be available on ESPN and ABC, while Netflix has snapped up the international rights. ESPN and ABC will make the documentary available on TV and online via their digital platforms, while Netflix users can access it via the Netflix app on TVs and connected devices, as well as online.
What will The Last Dance cover?
The documentary covers the Chicago Bulls during the 1997-98 season, which began with the franchise looking to win three consecutive titles for the second time after completing a first three-peat between 1991 and 1993.
The defending NBA champions, however, were rocked by news that coach Phil Jackson would leave Chicago at the end of the season, which cast doubts over Michael Jordan’s future in the Windy City as MJ had previously stated he would not play for any coach other than Jackson. With star forward Scottie Pippen demanding a trade, the Bulls’ title defense looked to have got off to the wrong start, but any doubts over the team’s resilience were quashed as Chicago motored to a 62-20 record.
Jordan was the league top scorer and picked up the fifth MVP award of his career but as he often did he left his best for the playoffs. After sweeping the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs and thrashing the Charlotte Hornets 4-1 in the second round, the Bulls survived a seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers to set up a rematch of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.
The Bulls had defeated the Jazz in six games 12 months earlier and repeated the feat in 1998, with Jordan producing one of his greatest moments in his last 40 seconds in a Bulls jersey. With Chicago trailing by three points and 41.9 seconds left in Game 6, Jordan cut the Jazz lead to a single point, before Utah put the ball in the hands of star forward Karl Malone in the following possession.
Jordan, however, ripped the ball out of Malone’s hands and dribbled up the court before draining the winning basket with just over five seconds left on the clock, delivering his last iconic moment as a Chicago Bulls player.
Will non-NBA fans enjoy the show?
Making assumptions should be avoided at all costs, but it’s hard to imagine this documentary not being a success even beyond basketball’s traditional boundaries. Anyone who has an even passing interesting in sport should relish this kind of behind-the-scene, access-all-areas approach and Jordan’s mentality and desire to win will make for fascinating viewing. Those who aren’t in sports let alone basketball should still find the documentary riveting, as the Jordan-era Bulls were far more than a simple NBA team and defined a generation.