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Just as Michael Jordan did with the Chicago Bulls, ESPN’s The Last Dance went out on top.
The final two episodes of the docuseries averaged 5.65 million viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 on Sunday, capping a 10-episode run that also averaged 5.65 million same-day viewers. All 10 episodes of The Last Dance drew at least a million more viewers than the previous most-watched ESPN documentary, 2012’s You Don’t Know Bo (3.6 million).
The Last Dance chronicles Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98, which concluded with the team’s sixth NBA title in eight years, while also looking back at Jordan’s life and career. The effort included a trove of footage shot during the 1997-98 season, shot by NBA Entertainment at the time with an agreement that Jordan would have some control over it. Jordan’s company, Jump 23, is a producer of the series.
The Last Dance debuted April 19 in a sports-starved landscape that had been without any live games since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic (ESPN had initially slotted the docuseries for June following the NBA Finals, then moved it up a couple months). The first two episodes set a record for ESPN originals with 6.07 million same-day viewers.
The remaining episodes proved to be remarkably consistent, with only one — episode eight on May 10 — dipping below 5 million. Sunday’s two hours were up about 10 percent from the previous week and ranked second among sports-related programming for the day, behind Fox’s first live NASCAR race since March 8.
The Last Dance has also drawn big numbers via delayed and multiplatform viewing: ESPN says episode one has drawn nearly 15 million viewers since its premiere.
A follow-up special hosted by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is set to air Tuesday on ABC.
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