Michael Jordan 'The Last Dance' documentary ratings show ESPN series is scoring big

Jordan retrospective was Disney-owned network's most-watched documentary series ever

The debut of ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary series “The Last Dance” on Sunday night proved to be a hit among sports-starved fans and NBA players alike.

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The first two episodes of the 10-part series, which chronicles Jordan’s rise to basketball immortality through the lens of his final season with the Chicago Bulls, drew a rabid response among Twitter users. Early storylines included Jordan’s time at the University of North Carolina, his tense relationship with Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and his on-court chemistry with longtime teammate Scottie Pippin.

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The two episodes drew an average audience of 6.1 million viewers across ESPN platforms during Sunday night’s premiere. “The Last Dance’ was ESPN’s most-viewed documentary content ever released and its top-rated original content since 2004.

“If I had 3 wishes in life. I think I would have asked for #TheLastDance,” former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade wrote on Twitter.

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“The Last Dance” was the top-trending topic on Twitter and the top Google Search trend on Sunday night. At one point, the series accounted for 25 of the 30 top trending topics on Twitter.

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The Jordan retrospective was the most-viewed television program in the Bulls’ home market of Chicago, drawing a 12.6 household rating for its first episode, according to Nielsen data.

ESPN decided to air the series earlier than originally intended after the coronavirus pandemic brought a complete halt to live sporting events.

The NBA received permission from Bulls executives and Jordan himself to shoot the documentary footage during the 1997-98 season. Despite a tense locker room atmosphere, including a disintegrating relationship between Krause and Bulls head coach Phil Jackson, Jordan led Chicago to a sixth and final championship.

Michael Jordan takes the ball down court during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers Feb. 7, 1990, at The Forum, Los Angeles, California. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

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"Our agreement will be that neither one of us can use this footage without the other's permission," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, then the head of NBA Entertainment, told Jordan at the time, according to ESPN. "It will be kept -- I mean literally it was physical film -- as a separate part of our Secaucus, [New Jersey,] library. Our producers won't have access to it. It will only be used with your permission."

The documentary series features new interviews with Jordan and several other notable figures, including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Episodes three and four will air on Sunday.

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