Can/will ESPN explore its option to move up the release date of “The Last Dance,” its upcoming 10-part docuseries about the Chicago Bulls?
As sports media figures out its next move in a world where all sports have been paused by the coronavirus pandemic, one option for ESPN is to hurry its release of the series that explores NBA superstar Michael Jordan’s final season with the Bulls in their 1998 championship-winning season.
“The Last Dance” was originally supposed to begin airing on June 2, just before the NBA Finals were scheduled to start. But after Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19 this past week (as did Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood), the NBA announced it would suspend all play for at least the next 30 days in an effort to contain the virus. The rest of the sports world quickly followed suit as the NHL, MLS, MLB, UEFA Champions League, PGA Tour, and other global pro sports leagues suspended play while the NCAA announced that its annual college basketball tournaments would be canceled.
Since leagues suspended play, ESPN has aired commercials for “The Last Dance” that announce that the series would be “coming soon” instead of on its original June airdate. Sports site Awful Announcing reports that moving up the airdate for “The Last Dance” is an option ESPN is considering to fill up airtime, but that the situation is complicated as the series is still in post-production. This is why a new airdate has not been officially announced, nor has it been determined over how many days the 10 episodes would be spaced out.
ESPN did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Initially launched to celebrate ESPN’s 30th anniversary in 2009, “30 for 30” has become one of the sports network’s most acclaimed projects, expanding into an ongoing series produced by ESPN Films with over 100 feature-length documentaries about sports stories throughout the decades along with short films and podcasts. The series has won an Emmy and two Peabody Awards, as well as the 2016 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for Ezra Edelman’s five-part, seven-hour-plus docuseries “O.J.: Made in America.”
Directed by Jason Hehir, “The Last Dance” will feature never-before-seen interviews and footage from the 1997-98 NBA season, which culminated in Jordan and the Bulls winning their sixth title in eight years by defeating the Utah Jazz in six games in the Finals. Following the victory, Jordan announced his retirement, leading to the dismantling of the Bulls dynasty, as Phil Jackson resigned as head coach. He went on to win five more titles with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers — while other players like Scottie Pippen signed with other teams. The Bulls have not appeared in the NBA Finals since.
The series will feature tell-all interviews from players and coaches on the team, including Jordan, Pippen, Jackson, Steve Kerr and Dennis Rodman. It will also feature interviews with former President Barack Obama, a lifelong Bulls fan, as well as NBA legends like Pat Riley, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and the late Kobe Bryant.