The Last Dance (miniseries)
|The Last Dance|
|Directed by||Jason Hehir|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Running time||48–50 minutes|
|Original release||April 19 –|
May 17, 2020
The Last Dance is a 2020 American sports documentary miniseries co-produced by ESPN Films and Netflix. Directed by Jason Hehir, the series revolves around the career of Michael Jordan, with particular focus on his final season with the Chicago Bulls. The series features exclusive footage from a film crew that had an all-access pass to the Bulls, as well as interviews of many NBA personalities including Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and Phil Jackson.
The series aired on ESPN from April 19 to May 17, 2020, in the United States, while its episodes were released on Netflix internationally the day after their US airings; beginning on May 23, two episodes were aired back-to-back on ESPN's corporate partner ABC. It received critical acclaim, with praise for its directing and editing. It won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
The series became available on Netflix on July 19, 2020.
This is the list of the 90 persons interviewed for the documentary, ordered by air time.
- Michael Jordan
- Scottie Pippen
- Phil Jackson
- Steve Kerr
- Jerry Reinsdorf
- David Aldridge
- Dennis Rodman
- B. J. Armstrong
- Mark Vancil
- Reggie Miller
- Michael Wilbon
- Andrea Kremer
- John Paxson
- Sam Smith
- Horace Grant
- Rick Telander
- Ahmad Rashad
- Tim Grover
- Rod Thorn
- Deloris Jordan
- Bill Wennington
- Doug Collins
- David Falk
- Isiah Thomas
- Magic Johnson
- Toni Kukoč
- Will Perdue
- Barack Obama
- J. A. Adande
- George Koehler
- Brian McIntyre
- Bob Costas
- Todd Boyd
- Larry Bird
- John Salley
- Gary Payton
- David Stern
- Ann Kerr
- James Worthy
- Joe O'Neil
- Roy Johnson
- Chip Schaefer
- Kobe Bryant
- Tim Hallam
- Jalen Rose
- Charley Rosen
- Charles Barkley
- John Stockton
- Roy Williams
- Tisher Lett
- Willow Bay
- Carmen Electra
- Bill Cartwright
- Jud Buechler
- Jim Stack
- Mike Barnett
- Scott Burrell
- Terry Francona
- Brendan Malone
- Danny Ainge
- Howard White
- Melissa Isaacson
- Ronnie Martin
- Rod Higgins
- Glen Rice
- Patrick Ewing
- Ronnie Jordan
- Hannah Storm
- Steve East
- Larry Jordan
- Billy Pippen
- Fred Lynch
- Buzz Peterson
- Sidney Moncrief
- Ron Harper
- John A. Hefferon
- Bill Clinton
- Pat Riley
- Adam Silver
- Marcus Jordan
- Joe Kleine
- Charles Oakley
- Jasmine Jordan
- Justin Timberlake
- Billy Packer
- Ron Coley
- Joe Pytka
- Kevin Loughery
- Jeffrey Jordan
|No.||Title||Directed by||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|1||"Episode I"||Jason Hehir||April 19, 2020||5.73|
|Flashbacks chronicle Michael Jordan's college and early NBA days. The Bulls make a preseason trip to Paris amid tension with GM Jerry Krause.|
|2||"Episode II"||Jason Hehir||April 19, 2020||5.12|
|Scottie Pippen rises to become one of the NBA's best players. An injury early in Jordan's career shows distrust with Bulls management.|
|3||"Episode III"||Jason Hehir||April 26, 2020||5.31|
|Dennis Rodman's attitude and energy help the team win, but bring the drama off the court. The Bulls struggle to overcome the Pistons in the late '80s.|
|4||"Episode IV"||Jason Hehir||April 26, 2020||4.86|
|Phil Jackson's unique philosophy and demeanor take the Bulls to the next level. The team finally gets past Detroit and earns a shot at an NBA title, which is a dream matchup against Magic Johnson and the Lakers.|
|5||"Episode V"||Jason Hehir||May 3, 2020||4.91|
|From Air Jordan and Be Like Mike to the 1992 NBA Finals and the Olympic dream team, Jordan becomes a global cultural icon unlike any other.|
|6||"Episode VI"||Jason Hehir||May 3, 2020||4.44|
|A revealing book and scrutiny of his gambling put a dent in Jordan's reputation, but he remains focused on winning a third straight title in 1993.|
|7||"Episode VII"||Jason Hehir||May 10, 2020||4.41|
|Crushed by the death of his father, a mentally exhausted Jordan retires in 1993 – to play baseball. The Bulls move on with Pippen in the lead role.|
|8||"Episode VIII"||Jason Hehir||May 10, 2020||4.16|
|Jordan's return energizes the Bulls, the city and the NBA, but a playoff loss in 1995 fuels him to work harder than ever to get back on top; this is rewarded with their fourth NBA championship over Seattle in 1996, after a record-breaking 72-win season.|
|9||"Episode IX"||Jason Hehir||May 17, 2020||5.02|
|The Bulls face stiff challenges to their reign in 1997 against Utah and in 1998 versus Indiana. Role player Steve Kerr makes his mark on the dynasty.|
|10||"Episode X"||Jason Hehir||May 17, 2020||4.59|
|Battered and exhausted, the Bulls conclude their "Last Dance" with a sixth championship. Jordan, Jackson, and others reflect on the end of their dynasty.|
Production and release
The series features both interviews and never-released footage from the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls season. Over 500 hours of all-access footage was filmed and used to create the 10 part documentary series. According to Adam Silver (now NBA Commissioner, but then the head of NBA Entertainment), Jordan allowed the filming with the agreement that the footage would only be used with his direct permission. After many years, and many refusals from Jordan, he agreed in 2016 to a documentary proposal from Mike Tollin.
ESPN and Netflix announced their joint production of the 10-part documentary series in May 2018, with the first official trailer being released on December 25, 2018. The release date was pushed back to June 2020 after another trailer was released in December 2019. However, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN published the final trailer on March 31, 2020 and expedited the premiere to April 19, 2020, releasing the following statement:
As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience. We've heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that. This project celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties ever, and we hope it can serve as a unifying entertainment experience to fill the role that sports often play in our lives, telling a story that will captivate everyone, not just sports fans.
The series was released weekly from April 19, 2020 to May 17, 2020, with two episodes airing each Sunday. Outside of the United States, the episodes were released on Netflix the day after their ESPN airing. ESPN2 aired a censored version of the documentary alongside the ESPN broadcast. The censored version was also aired on ABC.
According to Hehir, Jordan refused to film interviews in his home to maintain privacy. The interviews were filmed in three houses, one rented by the production and two others which were homes of friends of the production. The fifth episode is dedicated to Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. Bryant's interview was featured in the episode's opening.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 96% based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 8.72/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "A compelling and comprehensive portrait of one of basketball's great teams, The Last Dance's blend of archival footage and candid interviews confirms there's nobody quite like Mike or the team he led to victory." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the series a score of 91 out of 100 based on 12 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Writing for Consequence of Sound, Robert Daniels gave The Last Dance a perfect score, calling the series "beautifully composed and edited together" and a "pulsating celebration of greatness." Similarly, Alex Pattle of The Independent praised director Jason Hehir, writing that "Hehir's fear of being formulaic fosters a compelling freshness, and his ability to subtly segue between tones ensures Jordan's auras of magnetism and intensity are highlighted at the appropriate moments", while Brian Lowry of CNN gave the series five stars out of five, saying that "it's a very, very deep dive, but for fans who will eat this stuff up, it hits all the right notes."
Chicago Sun-Times's Richard Roeper gave the series three and a half stars out of four, writing that "while some might question whether even one of the great team sports dynasties of all time merits such a lengthy treatment, if anything each episode left me wanting more. Not only were the Bulls a team for the ages, they also gave us a sports soap opera for the ages." Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave the series a positive review, writing that "it's a tremendously engaging, ridiculously fun assemblage of spectacular basketball footage and reasonably introspective interviews with almost everybody you'd hope to hear from on the subject." Writing for The New York Times, Wesley Morris wrote that "Hehir has this trick where any time someone says something debatable or controversial or simply worthy of running by [Michael] Jordan, he hands him an iPad and makes him watch what was said. And every time Hehir does it, Jordan turns the reaction into gold. He's an incredulous Zeus in these moments, lightning bolts falling from his toga as he laughs, zapping lesser gods."
Conversely, filmmaker Ken Burns criticized Michael Jordan's involvement in the production of the series, saying that "if you are there influencing the very fact of it getting made, it means that certain aspects that you don't necessarily want in aren't going to be in [...] and that's not the way you do good journalism." Specifically, Burns pointed to Jordan's production company, Jump 23, being listed as a partner in the series.
Response from the basketball community
While the series drew positive reactions from many current NBA players, several players featured in the documentary were critical of how they were portrayed. Scottie Pippen was reportedly "wounded and disappointed" by his characterization, though he did not make any public remarks during the documentary's airing. Pippen later denied any rift between himself and Jordan over the documentary, however, he told Jordan he was not pleased with the docuseries and considered it to be "about Michael trying to uplift himself and to be glorified". Jordan accepted Pippen's opinion, saying "hey, you’re right".
Horace Grant expressed a belief that the documentary was edited to favor Jordan, remarking that the series was "entertaining, but we know [...] that about 90% of it [was] BS in terms of the realness of it"; he also denied Jordan's accusation that Grant was the source for The Jordan Rules and agreed that Pippen was portrayed unfairly. Craig Hodges, who was not interviewed for the documentary, was "bothered" by Jordan's comments about the team's use of cocaine during the 1980s, remarking, "I was thinking about the brothers who [were on the team] with you who have to explain [what happened] to their families".
For the 2019–20 television season, the show tied for fifth among adults 18–49 in the Nielsen ratings with This Is Us, averaging a 2.9 rating and 15 share. It also placed 55th in total viewership, averaging 6.71 million viewers. Variety dubbed the show's performance a "consolation prize" for ESPN given the network's struggle to find live sports.
The Last Dance : U.S. viewers per episode (millions)
|No.||Title||Air date||Timeslot (ET)||Rating
|1||"Episode I"||April 19, 2020||Sunday 9:00 p.m.||2.6||5.73||0.6||1.51||3.2||7.25|||
|2||"Episode II"||April 19, 2020||Sunday 10:00 p.m.||2.3||5.17||0.7||1.62||3.0||6.73|||
|3||"Episode III"||April 26, 2020||Sunday 9:00 p.m.||2.3||5.31||0.8||1.68||3.1||6.99|||
|4||"Episode IV"||April 26, 2020||Sunday 10:00 p.m.||2.1||4.86||0.9||2.04||3.1||6.90|||
|5||"Episode V"||May 3, 2020||Sunday 9:00 p.m.||2.1||4.91||0.8||1.78||2.8||6.68|||
|6||"Episode VI"||May 3, 2020||Sunday 10:00 p.m.||1.9||4.44||0.9||2.00||2.7||6.43|||
|7||"Episode VII"||May 10, 2020||Sunday 9:00 p.m.||1.9||4.41||0.9||1.88||2.8||6.29|||
|8||"Episode VIII"||May 10, 2020||Sunday 10:00 p.m.||1.8||4.16||1.0||2.23||2.8||6.39|||
|9||"Episode IX"||May 17, 2020||Sunday 9:00 p.m.||2.1||5.02||0.8||1.75||2.8||6.77|||
|10||"Episode X"||May 17, 2020||Sunday 10:00 p.m.||1.9||4.59||0.9||1.98||2.7||6.57|||
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|AAFCA Awards||August 22, 2020||Best Documentary||The Last Dance||Won[a]|||
|Cinema Eye Honors||March 9, 2021||Outstanding Broadcast Series||The Last Dance||Pending|||
|Outstanding Editing in a Broadcast Film or Series||Chad Beck, Devin Concannon, Abhay Sofsky and Ben Sozanski||Pending|
|Creative Arts Emmy Awards||September 14, 2020||Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series||Jason Hehir, Michael Tollin, Estee Portnoy, Curtis Polk, Connor Schell, Gregg Winik and Andrew Thompson||Won|||
|Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program||Jason Hehir (for "Episode 7")||Nominated|
|Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program||Chad Beck, Devin Concannon, Abhay Sofsky and Ben Sozanski (for "Episode 1")||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Awards||March 22–27, 2021||Outstanding Documentary – Television||The Last Dance||Won|||
|Producers Guild of America Awards||March 24, 2021||Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television||The Last Dance||Won|||
|TCA Awards||September 14, 2020||Outstanding Achievement in News and Information||The Last Dance||Won|||
- Rosenthal, Phil (August 15, 2019). "ESPN offers a peek at their '30 for 30' documentary on Dennis Rodman: 'A much more complex and nuanced picture emerges'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on December 2, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
- Chavez, Chris (December 24, 2019). "ESPN's Latest Trailer for 'The Last Dance' Features Michael Jordan, Bulls Legends, President Obama". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
- Christie, Jennifer (May 18, 2018). "ESPN Films, Netflix Announce Multi-Part Documentary The Last Dance featuring Michael Jordan" (Press release). New York, New York: ESPN. Archived from the original on November 21, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
- "Who got the most air time in the Michael Jordan documentary?". HoopsHype. May 19, 2020. Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
- "'The Last Dance' documentary set to air April 19 on ESPN". NBA.com. March 31, 2020. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
- Pucci, Douglas (April 29, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'Disney Family Singalong' Leads All Unscripted Offerings in Raw Lifts". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on April 29, 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
- Pucci, Douglas (May 8, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'Will & Grace' Series Finale Tops All Comedy Telecasts in Overall Raw Gains". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 9, 2020. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
- Pucci, Douglas (May 15, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'Blue Bloods' Final Two Episodes of its Tenth Season Lead in Raw Viewer Gains for Each Respective Week". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 16, 2020. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
- Pucci, Douglas (May 19, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'The Rookie' Tops the Week's Season Finale Telecasts in Raw Adults 18-49 Gains, More Than Doubling its Same-Day Demo Delivery". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
- Pucci, Douglas (May 29, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: '9-1-1' Third Season Finale Leads All Telecasts in Total Viewer Lifts". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 29, 2020. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
- Shelburne, Ramona (April 18, 2020). "An all-access Michael Jordan documentary? How 'The Last Dance' was made possible". Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Espinosa, Joshua (December 25, 2018). "Here's the Thrilling New Trailer for ESPN's Michael Jordan Documentary 'The Last Dance'". Complex. Archived from the original on December 27, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
- @ESPNNBA (December 25, 2018). "Cannot. Wait" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Tigg, FNR (December 24, 2019). "Latest Trailer for Michael Jordan Doc 'The Last Dance' Features Barack Obama, Nas and More". Complex. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
- "ESPN Documentary 'The Last Dance' About Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Gets a New Trailer". Maxim. December 24, 2019. Archived from the original on December 28, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
- Steinberg, Brian (April 15, 2020). "ESPN Plans Two Versions of Much-Anticipated Michael Jordan Documentary (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on April 21, 2020. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
- Guerrasio, Jason. "Michael Jordan refused to be filmed in his own home for 'The Last Dance' — here's where the basketball legend's interviews took place". Insider. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
- Kasabian, Paul (May 2, 2020). "'The Last Dance' Episode 5 Will Be Dedicated to Kobe Bryant". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on May 2, 2020. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- "The Last Dance (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
- "The Last Dance (2020)". Metacritic. CBS. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
- Daniels, Robert (April 18, 2020). "TV Review: Michael Jordan Takes No Prisoners in ESPN's Incredible Docuseries The Last Dance". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on April 22, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Pattle, Alex (April 20, 2020). "The Last Dance: Michael Jordan documentary is an enthralling piece of television". The Independent. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Lowry, Brian (April 17, 2020). "'The Last Dance' hits the right notes with its look back at Michael Jordan and the Bulls". CNN. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Roeper, Richard (April 15, 2020). "'The Last Dance' captures the dominance and the drama of '90s Bulls dynasty". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Fienberg, Daniel (April 14, 2020). "'The Last Dance': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Morris, Wesley (April 19, 2020). "In 'The Last Dance', Michael Jordan and the Bulls Still Dominate". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 19, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Moreau, Jordan (April 30, 2020). "Ken Burns Slams Michael Jordan Doc 'Last Dance': 'Not the Way You Do Good Journalism'". Variety. Archived from the original on May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
- Cancian, Dan (April 20, 2020). "'The Last Dance': Best Twitter Reactions as NBA Players Praise 'Fantastic' Michael Jordan ESPN Documentary". Newsweek. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- MacMullan, Jackie (May 7, 2020). "Dennis Rodman defends Scottie Pippen from 'Last Dance' criticism". ESPN. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- "Scottie Pippen denies The Last Dance caused a rift with Michael Jordan". The Guardian. July 28, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
- "Scottie Pippen: 'I told Michael Jordan I wasn't too pleased with The Last Dance'". the Guardian. December 6, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
- "'Lie, lie, lie': Former Jordan teammate gives withering assessment of The Last Dance". The Guardian. May 19, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- Aviles, Gwen (May 6, 2020). "Michael Jordan's former teammate slams the basketball star's 'cocaine circus' comments in 'The Last Dance'". NBC News. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- "Craig Hodges blasts Michael Jordan for cocaine comments in 'The Last Dance'". Chicago Sun-Times. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- Schneider, Michael (May 21, 2020). "100 Most-Watched TV Shows of 2019-20: Winners and Losers". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
- Jackson, Angelique (August 22, 2020). "Janet Mock, Kenya Barris, Sterling K. Brown and Viola Davis Accept 2020 AAFCA TV Honors". Variety. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
- Feinberg, Scott (November 24, 2020). "Cinema Eye Honors Announces First Wave of Noms, Plans to Highlight Films Hurt by Pandemic". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
- Schaefer, Rob (July 28, 2020). "'The Last Dance' Michael Jordan documentary pulls three 2020 Emmy nominations". NBC Sports. Archived from the original on July 29, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- Del Rosario, Alexandra (February 2, 2021). "NAACP Image Awards Nominations: Netflix Tops List With 'Bridgerton', 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' & 'Da 5 Bloods'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
- Hill, Libby (March 8, 2021). "'Bridgerton' and 'Ted Lasso' Among PGA Awards TV Nominees". Indiewire. Retrieved March 8, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Goldberg, Lesley (September 14, 2020). "'Watchmen' Rules 2020 TV Critic Awards Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 14, 2020.