ESPN moves up Chicago Bulls documentary to April 19

“The Last Dance” features legendary Chicago Bulls team vying for their sixth championship title

One of the most highly-anticipated sports documentaries of all time has finally received a drop date.

The Last Dance, a ten-hour documentary featuring never-before-seen footage of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and their quest for their sixth NBA championship title, is premiering on ESPN April 19, with State Farm Insurance and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as presenting sponsors.

The documentary series is also streaming on Netflix, but only outside of the United States.

The Last Dance was expected to premiere in June but because of the coronavirus pandemic wiping out sporting events across the globe – leaving sports networks with little original programming to air, ESPN needed something to broadcast as many viewers were asking them to move up the documentary, but network officials said the miniseries wasn’t completed.

ESPN plans to air the ten-part documentary over five weeks – April 19, April 26, May 3, May 10, and May 17 with two episodes a night. Encores of the previous week’s two episodes will air from April 26 through May 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. local time, with fresh installments airing from 8 to 10 p.m. There are no plans to air the documentary on ABC, whom the network and ESPN share a corporate parent in Disney.

“As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience,” ESPN said in a statement. “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 documentary is directed by Jason Hehir, who credits include another documentary on an iconic Chicago team, The ’85 Bears.

The Bulls helped the NBA establish as a global entity as the team treated like rock stars everywhere they went on the road to sold-out arenas. One game they played in Atlanta against the Hawks during the final 1997-98 season drew 62,000+ to the now-defunct Georgia Dome – an NBA record that still stands today.  The 1997-98 squad also set ratings records for SportsChannel Chicago and WGN-TV, then rights-holders to the team.

One of the most memorable moments from the season came in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals when Michael Jordan made the shot against the Utah Jazz late in the game to give the Bulls the lead – and their sixth NBA Championship.

Over one hundred people were interviewed for this documentary, including Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and former President Barack Obama, a die-hard Bulls fan.

The documentary is certainly welcome relief – albeit temporary – for sports fans starved for original content as live sports is on the shelf for the foreseeable future.

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