The Next 'Last Dance'? Viewers Interested in Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth

Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his early 2000s teams would also be popular subjects for the doc treatment, according to a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll.
Photofest
Muhammad Ali (right) in the ring with Joe Frazier

If ESPN makes another longform documentary, a la The Last Dance, viewers would most like the cable network to reach further back into sports history for its subject.

That's the takeaway from a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll, which asked 2,200 adults about the Michael Jordan docuseries and gauged interest in potential future subjects.

Somewhat surprisingly given its breakout success for ESPN — the series has drawn close to 13 million viewers per episode across all platforms since its April 19 premiere — the vast majority of poll respondents said they hadn't seen any of The Last Dance. Only 19 percent said they had watched some or all of the 10-part series, with men (27 percent) more likely to have tuned in than women (11 percent).

Of those who did watch, though, the vast majority (82 percent) said they enjoyed it, with 56 percent saying they liked it "a lot." That sentiment cut across age, gender, ethnic and political lines, with healthy majorities of every demographic surveyed saying they enjoyed The Last Dance.

The poll also asked whether people would be interested in watching a similar documentary about 21 different current and former athletes. Of those, boxing legend Muhammad Ali (49 percent very or somewhat interested) and baseball great Babe Ruth (48 percent) generated the most interest, followed closely by another NBA Hall of Famer, the late Kobe Bryant (45 percent).

In the middle of the pack is NFL star Tom Brady, of whom 32 percent of respondents said they'd be interested in seeing a docuseries. ESPN has just greenlit such a a show, a nine-episode series called Man in the Arena that's set to air in 2021. 

The poll also asked whether viewers would be interested in documentaries about 12 different dynastic teams in the four major team sports in the U.S. Of those, viewers were most interested (37 percent) in a doc about the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s, led by Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson. The 1980s "Showtime" Lakers of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33 percent), the 1980s Boston Celtics (29 percent) and the early 1990s Dallas Cowboys (29 percent) also scored highly.

The THR/Morning Consult poll was conducted from May 21-24 and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.