Chicago Bulls fans and those who love sports documentaries got a nice Christmas present from ESPN Tuesday; a trailer and further details for their upcoming The Last Dance series, a 10-part documentary on the 90s Chicago Bulls in association with Netflix. The series is directed by Jason Hehir (known for 30 for 30 installments The Fab Five, Bernie and Ernie, and The ’85 Bears, plus HBO’s Andre The Giant) and produced by Mike Tollin (Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL?, Morningside 5, Improbably Gibson, Radio, Arli$$, the Olympic Channel’s Five Rings Films series and many more), and it will premiere on ESPN in the summer of 2020 and on Netflix that fall. It’s also in association with Tollin’s Mandalay Sports Media, NBA Entertainment, and Michael Jordan’s Jump.23. Here’s the trailer:
Jordan. Pippen. Rodman.
"The Last Dance," a 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls is coming to ESPN in 2020 pic.twitter.com/TUiV3CODnK
— 30 for 30 (@30for30) December 25, 2018
And here’s more info from ESPN’s release:
ESPN debuted a trailer for “The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary series that will chronicle one of the greatest icons and most successful dynasties in sports history, Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls. Directed by Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five,” “The ’85 Bears,” “Andre the Giant”) and produced by Mike Tollin, the anthology will examine the simultaneous rise of Jordan and the NBA during those years.
As previously announced, the project will be anchored by more than 500 hours of never-before-seen footage from the team’s last championship run in the 1997-98 season, and will feature Jordan and other key figures from the Bulls’ championship teams, as well as dozens of other luminaries from basketball and beyond.
The 10-hour series is produced with Netflix, along with Mandalay Sports Media, and in association with NBA Entertainment and Jump.23. “The Last Dance” is slated to premiere on ESPN in Summer 2020 and on Netflix in Fall 2020.
It’s interesting to see a recent rise in sports documentary efforts like this that are much larger than a single film. ESPN found success with the eight-hour, five-part OJ: Made In America in 2016, and since then, they’ve done the six-part Enhanced, the 20-hour, 62-story Basketball: A Love Story, the eight-episode Year One on NBA rookies, the two-part Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies and more. Elsewhere, LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Gotham Chopra teamed up for a three-part Shut Up And Dribble NBA documentary on Showtime, and in a move perhaps closest to this 90s Bulls series, the Los Angeles Lakers, Haven Entertainment and the LA Media Fund have partnered for a five-part documentary on the 80s Lakers. (It’s not known where that one will air yet.)
Add that to all the other single-installment documentaries from ESPN, HBO, league networks and more, and you get a pretty crowded content landscape. And that’s before you consider all the behind-the-scenes all-access efforts like ESPN’s Training Days: Rolling With The Tide on Alabama football and Earn Everything on Duke basketball, HBO’s Hard Knocks and Courtside, Showtime’s A Season With, Amazon’s All or Nothing, Fox’s Being, the NHL’s Road To The Winter Classic, Turner’s content around The Match, ELEAGUE, and the NBA draft, DAZN’s content around their fights and much more. So there’s an absolute ton of sports documentary content out there, which is great for fans looking for whatever particularly interests them. But it does mean new documentaries, and especially long series like The Last Dance, are going to have to compete for attention and audience.
If you’re going to do a big series on one particular team, though, the 90s Bulls feel like a pretty good bet given not only their dominance, but the mix of personalities involved. From Michael Jordan to Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen to Dennis Rodman, and Steve Kerr to Luc Longley, there are a whole lot of notable figures who were involved in that franchise’s success. And there were a significant amount of notable ups and downs for that team, from Jordan’s retirement and return to the 1995 second-round loss to the Magic to Jordan’s title-winning shot in 1998. The previously-unreleased behind-the-scenes footage is also a good hook, and Hehir and Tollin are certainly known for impressive sports documentaries, so there’s a good team attached here. We’ll see how The Last Dance turns out and how much of an audience it gets, but it’s definitely an interesting project, and one that should have some appeal to Bulls fans in particular and to NBA fans in general.